In 1859 Charles Dickens published his famous book, A Tale of Two Cities. The historical novel is set in London and Paris prior to and during the French Revolution, and it shows the conditions that led to the revolution. Dickens begins his story with this famous statement.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Dickens was describing conditions in his day, but he could have been describing our day. Americans live in the richest, most powerful nation in the world. The poorest people in America would be considered rich in many other nations. We have one of the highest standards of living in the world and have greater access to education than any previous generation. We enjoy the greatest comforts and the finest of luxuries. We live in the best of times.
We also live in the worst of times. Our nation and the world face problems and dangers that were not even imagined in prior generations. We have terrible crime, destructive wars, murders, immorality, and corruption in the highest levels of our government. The scriptures compare the wickedness of our day to the time of Noah when he preached repentance for over 100 years without success. The people were so wicked that the Lord flooded the earth to end their wickedness. Only Noah and his immediate family survived.
We live in the days just prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. There is a growing division between the righteous people of the earth and the wicked ones. The good people are becoming better and better, and the bad people are becoming more and more wicked. The division will continue to grow until the Lord returns to earth. He promised that there will be a great fire on the earth when He comes again. The righteous will be saved, and the wicked will be consumed – just as the flood waters drowned the wicked people in the days of Noah.
The Second Coming of the Savior has been described as both “great” and “terrible.” It will be a great day for the righteous people, but it will be a terrible one for the wicked people. Then-President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Ezra Taft Benson shared some of his thoughts about the events of the Last Days when he spoke at Brigham Young University in 1981. He titled his remarks “Prepare Yourself for the Great Day of the Lord.”
President Benson tells the students that they “stand close to the great day of the Lord!”
He warns them that they “will live in the midst of economic, political and spiritual instability,” but they should not be troubled when they see signs of the Coming of Christ. He tells them to “stand… in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come” (Doctrine and Covenants 87:8). He then explains where we can find holy places.
Holy men stand in holy places and these holy places include our temples, our chapels, our homes, and the stakes of Zion, which are, as the Lord declares, “for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 115:6).
Heed the Lord’s counsel to the Saints of this dispensation: “Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:10).
This preparation must consist of more than just casual membership in the Church. You must learn to be guided by personal revelation and the counsel of the living prophet so you will not be deceived. …
President Benson reminds the students that the parable of the Ten Virgins would be fulfilled when Christ comes in his glory. The people who will not be “hewn down and cast into the fire” are those who are “wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived….” (See Doctrine and Covenants 45:56-59.)
The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that we need to receive the truth and invite the Holy Ghost to guide us. President Benson taught that we must learn to receive personal revelation and be obedient to the counsel of the living prophet. This information falls right in line with counsel given by President Russell M. Nelson in the April 2018 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that “if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things – that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:61). …
President Nelson encourages us to stretch our spiritual ability in order to receive more personal revelation. Then he tells us some of the things that we must do if we want to see the heavens open to us.
Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and regular time committed to temple and family history work.
To be sure, there may be times when you feel as though the heavens are closed. But I promise that as you continue to be obedient, expressing gratitude for every blessing the Lord gives you, and as you patiently honor the Lord’s timetable, you will be given the knowledge and understanding you seek. Every blessing the Lord has for you – even miracles – will follow. That is what personal revelation will do for you.
Like other prophets, President Nelson is optimistic about the future. He sees many good things that will come into our lives, but he also knows that life is going to become more difficult for us. He tells us that we will see great examples of God’s mighty works, even ones that indicate that the Father and the Son preside over The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I am optimistic about the future. It will be filled with opportunities for each of us to progress, contribute, and take the gospel to every corner of the earth. But I am also not naïve about the days ahead. We live in a world that is complex and increasingly contentious…. If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation.
Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory….
Even with all the miracles and mighty works that we will see, we will have great difficulties. The problems will be impossible to survive without the influence of the Holy Ghost and His guidance in our lives.
… But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.
My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. … Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.
President Nelson pleads with us to do the necessary spiritual work to enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost more often. I have read through this talk several times. I studied it again last week, and I was struck by the Prophet’s plea that we increase our spirituality. He says that we must do more than merely be active in the Church. We must do the type of praying, studying, worshipping, etc. that will increase our spirituality.
It seems to me that as I strive to grow closer to God and more like the Savior that I regularly reach “plateaus” in my growth. I seem to work and work at moving higher, but I do not see much change. Then something happens, and I am growing again. I am currently on one of those plateaus, and I keep pleading and asking questions, “What changes do I need to make in order to feel closer to my Savior?” Where do I need to obey more exactly? How can I improve my personal study of the Book of Mormon and feel the Spirit more often? How can I become more spiritually in tune through my temple attendance?
The heavens seem to be closed to me right now, and I do not know why. However, I know that I must continue to seek the Lord in my daily activities in order to have them open to me. I encourage you to do the same. We all must increase in spirituality in order to be prepared to meet the Savior when He returns to earth.