“Joseph Smith–Matthew,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual (2000), 42–51
“Joseph Smith–Matthew,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual, 42–51
Joseph Smith—Matthew is the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 23:39–24:51.
“For December 1, 1831, Joseph Smith wrote the following note in his journal: ‘I resumed the translation of the Scriptures, and continued to labor in this branch of my calling with Elder Sidney Rigdon as my scribe’ [see History of the Church, 1:238, italics added]. This is a most important comment because it reveals how the Prophet himself viewed his work of translating the Bible—it was part of his divine calling as a prophet of God. … In December 1831 the Prophet had been at the translation some eighteen months and would continue working with it for another eighteen months. After that he would refine and prepare it for publication for the remaining eleven years of his life. Although he did not live to publish the entire work, it was the most unusual translation of the Bible ever attempted and stands as one of the witnesses to the world of Joseph Smith’s mission as a prophet of God in the last days” (Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, a History and Commentary , 3–4).
“The exact date on which the Prophet started to translate the Bible has been lost to history, but the translation was probably under way as early as the summer of 1830” (Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” 26). On 7 December 1830, the Lord commanded Sidney Rigdon to become the scribe for the Prophet Joseph Smith in the work of making the inspired changes to the Bible (see D&C 35:20).
Prior to His Crucifixion and Resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ answered His disciples’ questions about His glorious Second Coming (see Matthew 24:3–25:46; see also Luke 21:7–36). On 7 March 1831 the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith portions of what He told His disciples (see D&C 45:16–75). In that revelation, speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith, He said:
“And now, behold, I say unto you, it shall not be given unto you to know any further concerning this chapter [Matthew 24], until the New Testament be translated, and in it [the Joseph Smith Translation] all these things shall be made known;
“Wherefore I give unto you that ye may now translate it [the New Testament], that ye may be prepared for the things to come.
“For verily I say unto you, that great things await you” (D&C 45:60–62).
With that direction, the Prophet began the next day, 8 March 1831, the work of translating the New Testament, beginning with Matthew 1.
A date written on one of the manuscripts of the New Testament translation indicates that on 26 September 1831 the transcription and refinement of Matthew continued, starting with Matthew 26:1(see Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” 32). The translation of Matthew 24 may, therefore, have occurred sometime during September 1831.
The Prophet Joseph Smith made more changes to Matthew 24 than to any other chapter in the New Testament. Matthew 24 in the King James Version contains 1,050 words, while Joseph Smith—Matthew contains some 1,500.
A major difference between Matthew 24 and Joseph Smith—Matthew is that Joseph Smith—Matthew clearly separates the statements Jesus made concerning events that would take place in Jerusalem in the years shortly after His death (see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:5–21) from the events that would take place in the last days, prior to His Second Coming (see vv. 21–55).
Three statements are each repeated twice in Joseph Smith—Matthew (see vv. 10, 12, 23, 28, 30, 32), but only once each in the King James Version (see Matthew 24:6, 12, 15). Also, verses 6–8 of Matthew 24 became Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:23, 29, 19, respectively. The Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 24:55 is the only verse for which there is no correlating verse in the King James Version.
The first edition of the Pearl of Great Price was printed in Liverpool, England, in July 1851. It was compiled as a pamphlet for use in the British Mission by Elder Franklin D. Richards, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and president of the mission. In the preface to the pamphlet, Elder Richards explained that nearly all of its contents (which included Joseph Smith—Matthew) had appeared earlier in various Church publications in the United States, but with limited circulation. It is presumed that Elder Richards had access to these publications; however, he did not identify any of his source documents.
In Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:5–55, the Savior answered questions His disciples asked concerning the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the scattering of the Jews, and events that would occur prior to His Second Coming. It is a chapter of scripture that should be of intense interest to every Latter-day Saint. It tells of the latter-day dispensation, including the gathering of Israel prior to the Second Coming of Christ. The text of Matthew 24 in the King James Version has many unclear passages and its organization is confusing. The Prophet Joseph Smith’s work makes both the historical chronology of this prophecy and the doctrinal significance of its teachings plain and inspiring.
Jesus said, “I am he of whom it is written by the prophets” (see also JST, Matthew 4:18). With those words, He proclaimed to His disciples that He was the Messiah, the Anointed One, of whom all the prophets had prophesied (see Helaman 8:16–23). Their prophecies concerning the Messiah foretold not only His suffering for the sins of the world, but also His glorious Second Coming at the end of the world.
Many angels will appear with Jesus at His Second Coming. The scriptures describe these angels as having power to prepare the earth for the coming of Christ and as those who will sound trumps at strategic times (see Revelation 7:1; 8:2; 14–16; see also D&C 77:8, 12). In addition, the righteous Saints who have died will accompany Him at His Second Coming (see D&C 45:44–45; 76:50, 63; 88:96–98).
The Second Coming of Christ is an event spoken of repeatedly, with great fervency and hope, throughout the scriptures. For example, in Old Testament times the Lord showed Adam “whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation” (D&C 107:56), including the Second Coming of Christ. Adam made all these things known unto his children (see Moses 5:12). Enoch was shown in vision not only the coming of Christ in the meridian of time, but also “the day of the coming of the Son of Man, in the last days, to dwell on the earth in righteousness for the space of a thousand years” (Moses 7:65). Other Old Testament prophets prophesied of these wondrous latter days (see Job 19:25; Psalm 102:16; Isaiah 40:1–11; Daniel 7:13; Micah 1:3; Zechariah 13:6; Malachi 3:2). In the Book of Mormon, Jaredite prophets testified of the glorious coming of Christ (see Ether 3:16–25; 9:22; 13:1–12), as did the Nephite and Lamanite prophets (see Helaman 8:16–23). Furthermore, New Testament prophets and modern prophets have made many inspired pronouncements on this subject (see Acts 3:20–24; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 19–22; D&C 29; 45; 133). Of all of the prophecies in the scriptures concerning the latter days, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is by far the most highly anticipated.
See also Mark 13:1–2 and Luke 21:5–6. Because of the nature of the temple’s construction, the prophecy of its destruction may have seemed nearly impossible to the Jews. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, then a member of the Seventy, wrote: “Some single stones were about 67½ feet long, 7½ feet high, and 9 feet broad; the pillars supporting the porches, all one stone, were some 37½ feet tall. It is said that when the Romans destroyed and ploughed Jerusalem, six days battering of the walls failed to dislodge these mighty stones. The temple was, of course, finally leveled to the ground, and … the stones were rooted out and scattered elsewhere” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:637).
Known to some as Olivet, the Mount of Olives is a limestone ridge, a little more than one mile (1.6 kilometers) in length, east of the city of Jerusalem. It rises about two hundred feet (65 meters) above the city, with the Kidron Valley lying between it and the city. On its western side is the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the east, the villages of Bethany and Bethphage. This mount was the site of many events during biblical times (see 2 Samuel 15:30; Matthew 21:1–9; 26:30–56; Luke 21:37; John 8:1; Acts 1:12) and will be the site of prominent events associated with the latter days and the Messiah’s Second Coming (see Zechariah 14:4–5; D&C 45:48; 133:20).
The Prophet Joseph Smith’s inspired revision of Matthew 24:3 makes it clear that the disciples wanted to know about two events. The first event was “the destruction of the temple, and the Jews.” This event occurred about A.D. 70, when the Romans subdued a Jewish revolt, slaughtered the people, destroyed the city of Jerusalem, and scattered the Jews to many nations.
The second event the disciples asked about was “the end of the world, or the destruction of the wicked.” This will happen at the Second Coming of Christ in the last days. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, clarified what is meant by “the end of the world,” saying that it is “not the end of the earth but the end of the world, that is of the social conditions prevailing among worldly people. ‘The end of the world is the end of unrighteousness or of worldliness as we know it, and this will be brought about by “the destruction of the wicked.” (Jos. Smith 1:4 [Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:4].) When our world ends and the millennial era begins, there will be a new heaven and a new earth. (Isa. 65:17–25; D&C 101:23–24.) Lust, carnality, and sensuousness of every sort will cease, for it will be the end of the world.’ (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 767–768.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:640).
The Savior’s answer to His disciples’ inquiry concerning these two events provides an outline for understanding Matthew 24. Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:5–21(compare with Matthew 24:4–22) is His response about the destruction of the temple and the Jews, while Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:21–55(compare with Matthew 24:23–51) contains His statements about the sign of His coming and the end of the world.
Elder James E. Talmage, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, commented on the historical evidence of the fulfillment of this prophecy: “Among the false prophets, and men who claimed to be the duly accredited ministers of Christ, were Simon Magus who drew many people after him (Acts 8:9, 13, 18–24; see also The Great Apostasy, 7:1, 2), Menander, Dositheus, and Theudas, and the false apostles referred to by Paul (2 Cor. 11:13) and others, such as Hymeneus and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17, 18). Dummelow’s Commentary applies here the record by Josephus concerning ‘a body of wicked men, who deceived and deluded the people under pretense of divine inspiration, who prevailed with the multitude to act like madmen, and went before them into the wilderness, pretending that God would there show them the signals of victory’” (Jesus the Christ, 587).
Most of the original Apostles spread throughout the world to teach the gospel, but were eventually martyred. For example, history suggests that Peter suffered death in Rome (as did Paul), and James was slain by a sword in Jerusalem. But the Apostles were not the only martyrs. Many of the early Christians suffered great persecutions and were killed because of their faith. Some accounts of the persecution and martyrdom of early Saints are found in the New Testament (for example, see Acts 4:1–3, 17–18, 29; 5:17–19, 40; 7:54–60; 8:1–3; 11:19; 12:1–5; 13:50; 14:1–7, 19–20; 16:19–24; 17:1–9; 21–26; 2 Corinthians 11:23–29).
The Greek word for “offended” (scandalizo ) means “to make to stumble.” From the same root comes the word skandalon, which is translated as “stumbling block.” In Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:8 the Savior was saying that many would fall away or turn away from the faith.
To “wax” means to increase in intensity. Violence and corruption are signs that people have ceased to love or care about themselves and others. Coarseness and cruelty infect a society and spread like a disease. A cruel society exists when people are “without affection” and “hate their own blood” (Moses 7:33). As abuses by humans against other humans increase, men’s hearts turn cold and the spirit of Satan takes control of their actions.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“Daniel spoke prophetically of a day when there would be ‘the abomination that maketh desolate’ (Dan. 11:31; 12:11), and the phrase was recoined in New Testament times to say, ‘the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet.’ (Matt. 24:15.) … Relying solely on the plain meaning of words, we can conclude that this phrase (abomination of desolation) would have reference to some great act or status of corruption and befoulment, of contamination and filthiness, which would bring to pass destruction, ruination, devastation, desolation.
“Such is the case. These conditions of desolation, born of abomination and wickedness, were to occur twice in fulfilment of Daniel’s words. The first was to be when the Roman legions under Titus, in 70 A.D., laid siege to Jerusalem, destroying and scattering the people, leaving not one stone upon another in the desecrated temple, and spreading such terror and devastation as has seldom if ever been equalled on earth” (Mormon Doctrine, 12).
The second occurrence of the abomination of desolation, prophesied by the Savior in Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:32, refers to a latter-day destruction.
Concerning those who heeded the warning to flee, Elder James E. Talmage wrote: “The warning to all to flee from Jerusalem and Judea to the mountains when the armies would begin to surround the city was so generally heeded by members of the Church, that according to the early Church writers not one Christian perished in the awful siege (see Eusebius, Eccles. Hist., book iii, ch. 5). … All Jews who had faith in the warning given by Christ to the apostles, and by these to the people, fled beyond Jordan, and congregated mostly at Pella” (Jesus the Christ, 588).
The wickedness of the Jews at Jerusalem persisted and increased after the Resurrection of the Savior, setting the scene for the destruction that Jesus prophesied. Elder Ezra Taft Benson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, referring to a history written by Will Durant, said: “The siege of Jerusalem under Titus [lasted] for 134 days, during which 1,110,000 Jews perished and 97,000 were taken captive; … the Romans destroyed 987 towns in Palestine and slew 580,000 men, and a still larger number, we are told, perished through starvation, disease, and fire” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1950, 74).
“Thousands [of Jews] were carried off to Egypt to work in the quarries and mines as lifelong slaves. Boys and women were sold to slave traders, and thousands of others died of starvation in the prison camps. A remnant of this conquered people was scattered to the ends of the earth” (H. Donl Peterson, “The Fall of Jerusalem,” Ensign, May 1972, 42).
The suffering of the Jews following the death and Resurrection of Christ was clearly prophesied by Nephi and Jacob in the Book of Mormon (see 1 Nephi 19:14; 2 Nephi 6:9–11; 10:3–6; 25:9–16). Historical events, such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust, are other times since A.D. 70 when the Jews have been persecuted and destroyed.
By saying “and again, after the tribulation of those days which shall come upon Jerusalem,” Jesus gave a clear indication that He had finished prophesying about the “destruction of the temple, and the Jews,” and would next prophesy concerning the “end of the world, or the destruction of the wicked” (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:4).
Beginning with the latter part of Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:21, Jesus Christ answered the question His disciples asked in verse 4 about the signs of the end of the world and His Second Coming.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“False Christs! False Redeemers, false Saviors! Will there actually be men who will claim to fulfill the Messianic prophecies and who will step forth to offer their blood for the sins of the world? Is it possible that some will say, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; come unto me and be ye saved’? Or that others will profess to return in glory bearing the wounds with which the true Christ was wounded in the house of his friends?
“True, there may be those deranged persons who suppose they are God, or Christ, or the Holy Ghost, or almost anything. None but the lunatic fringe among men, however, will give them a second serious thought. The promise of false Christs who will deceive, if it were possible, even the very elect, who will lead astray those who have made eternal covenant with the Lord, is a far more subtle and insidious evil.
“A false Christ is not a person. It is a false system of worship, a false church, a false cult that says: ‘Lo, here is salvation; here is the doctrine of Christ. Come and believe thus and so, and ye shall be saved.’ It is any concept or philosophy that says that redemption, salvation, sanctification, justification, and all of the promised rewards can be gained in any way except that set forth by the apostles and prophets” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man , 47–48).
The Prophet Joseph Smith warned: “When a man goes about prophesying, and commands men to obey his teachings, he must either be a true or false prophet. False prophets always arise to oppose the true prophets and they will prophesy so very near the truth that they will deceive almost the very chosen ones” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 365).
He also taught: “The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves ‘in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth,’ and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 206).
Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, warned about false prophets and false teachers:
“Jesus cautioned several times that prior to His Second Coming, ‘many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many’ (Matthew 24:11). As Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is our duty to be watchmen on the tower, warning Church members to beware of false prophets and false teachers who lie in wait to ensnare and destroy faith and testimony. Today we warn you that there are false prophets and false teachers arising; and if we are not careful, even those who are among the faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will fall victim to their deception. …
“When we think of false prophets and false teachers, we tend to think of those who espouse an obviously false doctrine or presume to have authority to teach the true gospel of Christ according to their own interpretation. We often assume that such individuals are associated with small radical groups on the fringes of society. However, I reiterate: there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the Church. There are those who, without authority, claim Church endorsement to their products and practices. Beware of such. …
“Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce. Like Nehor and Korihor in the Book of Mormon, they rely on sophistry to deceive and entice others to their views. They ‘set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion’ (2 Nephi 26:29).
“Of such President Joseph F. Smith warned when he spoke of the ‘proud self-vaunting ones, who read by the lamps of their own conceit; who interpret by rules of their own contriving; who have become a law unto themselves, and so pose as the sole judges of their own doings’ (Gospel Doctrine, 381)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1999, 77–78; or Ensign, Nov. 1999, 62–63).
Elder James E. Talmage cautioned Latter-day Saints not to be deceived by miracles that are performed by false prophets. After quoting Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:22, Elder Talmage said: “The invalidity of miracles as proof of divinely appointed ministry is declared in an utterance of Jesus Christ regarding the events of the great judgment: ‘Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.’ The Jews to whom these teachings were addressed knew that wonders could be wrought by evil powers, for they charged Christ with working miracles by the authority of Beelzebub the prince of devils” (The Articles of Faith, 231).
After quoting Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:22, President Harold B. Lee defined the elect as “members of this Church” (Stand Ye in Holy Places, 384). Similarly, Elder Marion G. Romney, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said: “Now, those ‘who are the elect according to the covenant’ are members of the Church, so we ourselves are on notice to beware” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1956, 70; see also D&C 29:7–9).
President Joseph F. Smith warned: “Let it not be forgotten that the evil one has great power in the earth, and that by every possible means he seeks to darken the minds of men, and then offers them falsehood and deception in the guise of truth. Satan is a skilful imitator, and as genuine gospel truth is given the world in ever-increasing abundance, so he spreads the counterfeit coin of false doctrine. Beware of his spurious currency, it will purchase for you nothing but disappointment, misery and spiritual death. The ‘father of lies’ he has been called, and such an adept has he become, through the ages of practice in his nefarious work, that were it possible he would deceive the very elect” (Gospel Doctrine, 376).
Concerning the prophecies of the last days, President Wilford Woodruff said:
“These things are about to come to pass upon the heads of the present generation, notwithstanding they are not looking for it, neither do they believe it. Yet their unbelief will not make the truth of God of none effect. The signs are appearing in the heavens and on the earth, and all things indicate the fulfillment of the Prophets. …
“… Why should not God reveal His secrets unto His servants the Prophets, that the Saints might be led in paths of safety, and escape those evils which are about to engulf a whole generation in ruin?” (in History of the Church, 6:27).
The word troubled here is taken from the Greek throeo, meaning “to clamor” or “to be frightened.” The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that gospel knowledge “does away with darkness, suspense and doubt” and that “there is no pain so awful as that of suspense” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 288).
Elder M. Russell Ballard taught:
“Living in these difficult times, brothers and sisters, requires each one of us to maintain a positive, hopeful perspective about the future. …
“… More and more people are expressing great alarm at what appears to be an acceleration of worldwide calamity. As members of the Church, we must not forget the Savior’s admonition: ‘Be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass.’ …
“My message to you today, my brothers and sisters, is simply this: the Lord is in control. He knows the end from the beginning” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 41–42; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 31–32; see also 1 Nephi 22:17–19).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “‘If these false religious systems with their false teachers invite you to the desert to find Christ in a life of asceticism [strict self-denial], go not forth, he is not there; if they call you to the secret chambers of monastic seclusion [withdrawal from the world] to find him, believe them not, he is not there” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:648).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “All people shall see it together! It shall spread over all the earth as the morning light! … Surely this is that of which Isaiah said: ‘And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.’ (Isa. 40:5.) Surely this is that of which our revelation speaks: ‘Prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth, shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together.’ (D&C 101:23.) Surely this is that day of which Zechariah prophesied: ‘The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. … And the Lord shall be king over all the earth.’ (Zech. 14:5–9.)” (The Millennial Messiah, 419–20).
“The manner of the gathering, we are told, will be in the same miraculous and mysterious way as the gathering of eagles to a carcass lying in the desert—they appear suddenly and inexplicably in the four quarters of the sky and come together from vast distances to that single spot” (Hugh Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon , 472).
The use of the word carcass makes one think of a dead and worthless body, but it may also refer to a structure or framework, which better fits its use in Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:27. This is supported by the language in the Joseph Smith Translation of Luke 17:37, “Wheresoever the body is gathered; or, in other words, whithersoever the saints are gathered, thither will the eagles be gathered together; or, thither will the remainder be gathered together.” Today, the framework, or body, of the Church is found throughout the world in stakes, wards, and branches, while the eagles symbolize the Saints and the continuing stream of converts who embrace the restored gospel and gather into the Church.
See also Doctrine and Covenants 45:26, 63 and 63:33–34. In accordance with these revelations, the Prophet Joseph Smith declared: “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” (History of the Church, 3:390).
President Harold B. Lee affirmed that the signs are now upon us:
“We are seeing the signs of our times as foretold by the prophets and by the Master himself. …
“Brothers and sisters, this is the day the Lord is speaking of. You see the signs are here” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 168, 170; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 128–29).
In 1992, concerning earthquakes increasing in number, Elder M. Russell Ballard said: “Recently I read a newspaper article that cited statistics from the U.S. Geological Survey indicating that earthquakes around the world are increasing in frequency and intensity. According to the article, only two major earthquakes (earthquakes measuring at least six on the Richter scale) occurred during the 1920s. In the 1930s the number increased to five, and then it decreased to four during the 1940s. But in the 1950s, nine major earthquakes occurred, followed by fifteen during the 1960s, forty-six during the 1970s, and fifty-two during the 1980s. Already almost as many major earthquakes have occurred during the 1990s as during the entire decade of the 1980s” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 41–42; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 31).
The Prophet Joseph Smith told of a vision he had of the future: “I saw men hunting the lives of their own sons, and brother murdering brother, women killing their own daughters, and daughters seeking the lives of their mothers. I saw armies arrayed against armies. I saw blood, desolation, fires. The Son of Man has said that the mother shall be against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother. These things are at our doors. They will follow the Saints of God from city to city. Satan will rage, and the spirit of the devil is now enraged” (History of the Church, 3:391).
He later said: “I prophesy, in the name of the Lord God of Israel, anguish and wrath and tribulation and the withdrawing of the Spirit of God from the earth await this generation, until they are visited with utter desolation. This generation is as corrupt as the generation of the Jews that crucified Christ; and if He were here to-day, and should preach the same doctrine He did then, they would put Him to death” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 328).
The Prophet Joseph Smith prophesied the following about missionary work: “Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and … the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540).
President Ezra Taft Benson, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained that when the gospel is taken to all the earth, we can know the end is near: “This commission to take the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people is one of the signs by which believers will recognize the nearness of the Savior’s return to earth” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1984, 63; or Ensign, May 1984, 43). Elder James E. Talmage wrote: “When such witness among the nations is made complete, ‘then shall the end come’; and the nations ‘shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory’” (Jesus the Christ, 777).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “When our Lord returns, there shall be—among the wicked and ungodly—such wailing and mourning as has never before been known on earth, for the summer will be over, the harvest past, and their souls not saved” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:439).
This is the great event that will wind up the latter days. Christ will come to establish an earthly kingdom over the earth for a thousand years (see Articles of Faith 1:10). “So great shall be the glory of his presence that the sun shall hide his face in shame” (D&C 133:49). “The presence of the Lord shall be as the melting fire that burneth, and as the fire which causeth the waters to boil” (v. 41); “element shall melt with fervent heat” (D&C 101:25) and “the mountains [shall] flow down at [Christ’s] presence” (D&C 133:44).
At this time, the righteous Saints will be “quickened” and will join those “who have slept in their graves,” who will also be caught up to meet Christ “in the midst of the pillar of heaven” (see D&C 88:96–98). Christ will descend to earth “in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). With the coming of Christ, the millennial era of peace, harmony, and righteousness will begin. Satan will have “no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth” (1 Nephi 22:26).
President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Treasuring up his word is far more than merely reading it. To treasure it one must not only read and study, but seek in humility and obedience to do the commandments given, and gain the inspiration which the Holy Spirit will impart” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:305).
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,” 674.)
Concerning the Savior’s coming, the Prophet Joseph Smith 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 the Prophet Joseph Smith, 341; see also D&C 49:7).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie 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, 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 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” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1972, 128; or Ensign, Jan. 1973, 106).
Concerning the last days, Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a member 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, who was a counselor in 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” (inJournal of Discourses, 10:103).
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, 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 Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 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 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” (in Journal of Discourses, 17:117).