“Do we still believe in the Second Coming?” New Era, Jan. 1971, 9
Answer/Commissioner Neal Maxwell
The Church is clearly committed to a belief in the second coming of Christ. The multiplicity of scriptures bearing on this, the frequent counsel of our modern prophets concerning the literalness of this ecclesiastical expectation, all serve to reinforce the need for members not only to believe in this doctrine, but also to see its place in the context of the total plan God has for this planet and people.
It is important that we not be like Jonah, who went to wait for the destruction of Nineveh; but rather, that we work effectively and ceaselessly on the “Ninevehs” of our lives, precisely because we do believe that human history will have a cataclysmic end, even though we do not know when. Thus, there must be balance in our life-style in responding to this powerful doctrine of the second coming.
The chiliast, one who believes in a second coming of Christ that will usher in a millennial reign, has special challenges in reading signs. First, he is urged to notice lest he be caught unawares. Second, he must be aware of how many false readings and alarms there have been in bygone days, even by the faithful.
For instance, has any age had more wonders in the sky than ours, with satellites and journeys to the moon? Has any generation seen, as has ours, such ominous vapors of smoke, with its mushroom clouds over the pathetic pyres of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Yet there is more to come.
Our task is to react and to notice without overreacting, to let life go forward without slipping into the heedlessness of those in the days of Noah. It has been asked, and well it might be, how many of us would have jeered, or at least been privately amused, by the sight of Noah building his ark.
Presumably, the laughter and the heedlessness continued until it began to rain—and kept raining. How wet some people must have been before Noah’s ark suddenly seemed the only sane act in an insane, bewildering situation! To ponder signs without becoming paranoid, to be aware without frantically matching current events with expectations and using energy that should be spent in other ways—these are our tasks.
Perhaps, ironically, the recent secular “prophecies” about coming cataclysms may create a fresh interest in the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. The youth and all members of the Church need to accept the reality of Christ’s return in majesty and power before that event occurs; for, as C. S. Lewis put it, it will do men little good to kneel down when it is no longer possible to stand up, for when the “Author of the play comes on stage, the play is over!”