“Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:38–55,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual (2017)
“Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:38–55,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual
Figs are an important food in the Middle East. The failure of fig trees is a national calamity, while their productivity is a token of peace and divine favor. The fig tree is one of the earliest to show its fruit buds, which appear before the leaves; thus a fig tree with leaves would be expected also to have fruit. The time when the leaves appear indicates that summer is near. The fig tree differs from most other fruit trees in that its fruit is green and inconspicuous, concealed among leaves until near the time of ripening. (See Bible Dictionary, “Fig tree.”)
Concerning the Savior’s coming, the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) said: “Jesus Christ never did reveal to any man the precise time that He would come. Go and read the Scriptures, and you cannot find anything that specifies the exact hour He would come; and all that say so are false teachers” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 253; see also D&C 49:7).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote:
“The time for the Second Coming of Christ is as fixed and certain as was the hour of his birth. It will not vary as much as a single second from the divine decree. He will come at the appointed time. The Millennium will not be ushered in prematurely because men turn to righteousness, nor will it be delayed because iniquity abounds. …
“… [Jesus Christ] knows the set time and so does his Father” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man , 26–27).
Occasionally, publications circulate among members of the Church that specify or speculate on the time of the Second Coming. President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) warned members of the Church about these kinds of publications. After listing several passages in the scriptures that teach about the signs of the Second Coming of Christ, President Lee said: “These [scriptures] 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” (“Admonitions for the Priesthood of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, 106).
Concerning the last days, Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote: “As in the days of Noah, people will also be preoccupied with the cares and the pleasures of the world (see Matthew 24:37). Ironically, most therefore will even miss such signs as God gives pertaining to Jesus’ glorious second coming” (Sermons Not Spoken , 62). He also said: “It is no accident that the scriptures have preserved for us certain precious insights about the times in which Noah lived. Those were times, we read, that were ‘filled with violence’ (Genesis 6:11), and corruption abounded. There was apparently a sense of self-sufficiency, a condition to which Jesus called attention. (Matthew 24:36–41.) Jesus said this condition would be repeated in the last days. The people of Noah’s time were desensitized to real dangers. So we may become in our time. Noah and those with him had to let go of their world or perish with it!” (Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward , 13).
Concerning the parables in Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:44–45, President Heber C. Kimball (1801–68) of the First Presidency said: “The servants of God are angels in one sense, sent forth to gather the house of Israel from the four corners of the earth; and the Elders of this church in their labors have fulfilled, partly, the sayings of the Savior, when they have found two working in the field, one has received the gospel and been gathered, and the other left; two working in a mill, one has been taken and the other left; two lying in a bed, the one has been taken and the other left. But no doubt these sayings will have their final and complete fulfilment about the time of the second coming of the Savior” (“Remarks,” Deseret News, Mar. 11, 1863, 289).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie added further insight to the meaning of this passage when he said: “Those who treasure up his word will not be deceived as to the time of that glorious day, nor as to the events to precede and to attend it. (Jos. Smith 1:37.) The righteous will be able to read the signs of the times. To those in darkness he will come suddenly, unexpectedly, ‘as a thief in the night,’ but to ‘the children of light’ who ‘are not of the night, nor of darkness,’ as Paul expressed it, that day will not overtake them ‘as a thief.’ They will recognize the signs as certainly as a woman in travail foreknows the approximate time of her child’s birth. (1 Thess. 5:1–6.)” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 688).
Concerning the need to be prepared for the Second Coming but not to fear it, in a 1927 Christmas message the First Presidency stated: “Each passing year brings us nearer the date of the Lord’s coming in power and glory. True, the hour and the day when this great event is to take place, no man knoweth; but all the promised signs indicate that it is not far distant. Meanwhile the duty of the Saints is to watch and work and pray, being valiant for truth, and abounding in good works. Despite the uneasiness and discontent in many parts of the earth, the suspicions and jealousies among the nations, the mounting wave of lawlessness and crime, and the seeming spread of the elements of destruction … those who continue to stand in holy places can discern through it all the handworking of the Almighty in consummation of His purposes and in furtherance of His will. That which, viewed with the natural eye, is portentous and dreadful, causes no apprehension to those who have faith that whatever happens, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , 5:256).
In Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:49 the Lord asked a piercing question: “Who, then, is a faithful and wise servant … ?” It is a question similar to the ones asked in Psalm 24:3, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?” and in Malachi 3:2, “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.” These are questions we should each ask ourself.
Faithful and wise servants can always be found doing what they have been commanded to do, such as giving “meat in due season” (food at the proper time) to the households over which they have been made “rulers.” Such servants will be given responsibility over all of their master’s possessions. The evil servant will rationalize that he will do what he has been commanded later, and instead of feeding his household as he should, he will begin to abuse his fellow servants and feed himself, along with other drunkards. And the Lord will come to the evil servant at a time he least expects and is least prepared. The evil servant will not be made a ruler, but will be cut asunder and appointed his portion with the hypocrites.
The end of the world is the end of wickedness. But the end of the earth occurs when this earth is transformed into a celestial kingdom. President Brigham Young (1801–77) said: “When the Savior has completed the work, when the faithful Saints have preached the gospel to the last of the spirits who have lived here and who are designed to come to this earth; when the thousand years of rest shall come and thousands and thousands of temples shall be built, and the servants and handmaids of the Lord shall have entered therein and officiated for themselves, and for their dead friends back to the days of Adam; when the last of the spirits in prison who will receive the gospel has received it; when the Savior comes and receives his ready bride, and all who can be are saved in the various kingdoms of God—celestial, terrestrial and telestial, according to their several capacities and opportunities; when sin and iniquity are driven from the earth, and the spirits that now float in this atmosphere are driven into the place prepared for them; and when the earth is sanctified from the effects of the fall, and baptized, cleansed, and purified by fire, and returns to its paradisiacal state, and has become like a sea of glass, a urim and thummim; when all this is done, and the Savior has presented the earth to his Father, and it is placed in the cluster of the celestial kingdoms, and the Son and all his faithful brethren and sisters have received the welcome plaudit—‘Enter ye into the joy of your Lord,’ and the Savior is crowned, then and not till then, will the Saints receive their everlasting inheritances” (“Discourse,” Deseret News, Aug. 26, 1874, 466).