Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

What Is the Difference Between the Latter Days and the Last Days?

            I studied Articles of Faith 1:10 this week wondered if I was living in the last days. A novel coronavirus is sweeping across the earth. It is making tens of thousands of people sick, killing several thousands, and destroying economies. Is it the desolating sickness that is prophesied to cover the earth prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? It is a terrible sickness, and it is covering the earth!

We are now at the end of the first week of a fifteen-day period of isolation. My husband and I have not been out of the house since Monday afternoon except to pick up our mail. Our children have basically ordered us to stay home because our age and health make us particularly susceptible to the virus. Maybe it is the isolation causes me to think that we may be living in the last days, and maybe it is the combination of missionaries returning from numerous foreign countries. Whatever it is, I am convinced that we are moving rapidly towards the last days.

Article of Faith 1:10 says, “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” 

            The doctrines in the tenth Article of Faith covers four main events: Israel will be gathered literally including the return of the Lost Tribes, Zion will be built in America, Christ will return and reign on earth, and the earth will be changed. Israel is gathered as people learn about the gospel and are baptized. The gathering takes place in stakes of Zion located worldwide. Doctrine and Covenants 29:1-11 tells us that Christ will gather His elect and that His coming will usher in the Millennium. We know the signs of His coming because He shared them with His Apostles in Jerusalem and again through revelation to Joseph Smith. 

Doctrine and Covenants 45:15-35 tells us that Elders will be sent forth to cry repentance and to prepare the world for the Second Coming. The Lord calls to us by His own voice, by the Elders, and by the forces of nature. How we hear his voice depends on our own spirituality. Verses 24-38 tell us that there will be a “desolating sickness” that will cover the land prior to signs, wonders, and the return of the Savior. Doctrine and Covenants 101:22 tells us that all who call on the Lord and worship Him are to gather and stand in holy places. Verses 32-38 say that the Lord will reveal all things and that the people will not fear death but will care for the soul as they seek the face of Jesus Christ. Doctrine and Covenants commands us to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ. So, as we gather to the stakes and live the gospel, we are gathering Israel and perfecting the Saints. These two events help us to prepare for the coming of Christ and the Millennium. I found several insights during my studies.

My first insight came from President Russell M. Nelson’s quote from his address to the youth in June 2018: “… these surely are the latter days, and the Lord is hastening His work to gather Israel. That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty….”

President Nelson’s quote supports an earlier statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith: “[The] subject of the gathering … is a principle I esteem to be of the greatest importance to those who are looking for salvation. … All that the prophets … have written … goes directly to show that it consists in the work of the gathering” (History of the Church [1991], 2:260].

If the gathering is this important – and I believe that it is, then it stands to reason that Satan would pull out all his tricks to stop it. I believe that one of his tricks could be the coronavirus that is shutting down the world. Whether it is by the evil designs of men or an accident of nature, the coronavirus has slowed or stopped the work of the gathering on both sides of the veil. 

Missionaries have been sent home to protect their health. Other missionaries have lost the advantages of being trained in the missionary training center (MTC). Missionaries are being returned to their home countries, and some are being released early. Missionaries in the field are self-isolating as much as possible. This slows the missionary work a lot.

Then there is the situation at the temples. Many of them are closed, and the rest are closed for all proxy work. This action has stopped all temple work for people on the other side of the veil. However, the work of indexing and finding people may be quickening.

General Conference “attendance” will be by technology only, and sacrament meetings and stake conferences are cancelled. Will these changes make a difference in the perfecting of the Saints, and what kind of difference will they make? General Conference will be no different for me because I usually use technology to watch it, and my home sacrament meeting yesterday was wonderful. The Church of Jesus Christ has prepared us for years for such a trial.

I have been pondering God’s ability to take something terrible and turn it into something wonderful. An example of this ability is when Joseph was sold into Egypt and the great good that came from him being there to prepare for his extended family. What wonderful things will come out of this terrible scourge of sickness that is sweeping the world? I suppose that depends on how all of us handle the isolation and what we do with our added time at home! 

My second insight comes from the video, which points out that Article of Faith 10 consists of four great events: the gathering of Israel, the building of Zion, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and the millennium transformation of the world. Two of the events are happening at the present time with the first consisting of missionary work and temple work, and the second being the perfecting of the Saints. These events will continue until the work is done. The last two events are still in the future. There is something about the way that the video mentioned the four events that helped me to understand how the first two events work together to prepare the world for the last two events. It is in the process that we can become Zion with “one heart and one mind, and [dwell] in righteousness” with “no poor among [us]” (Moses 7:18).

My third insight is how God sent revelation about the gathering of Israel and the building of Zion in small packets. Doctrine and Covenants 29:2 tells us that Jesus Christ “will gather his people… even as many as will hearken to my voice and humble themselves before me and call upon me in mighty prayer.” Doctrine and Covenants 38:31-33 tells us that Christ will gather “a righteous people, without spot and blameless,” so they can “escape the power of the enemy.” He tells the Saints to go to the Ohio to receive “my law” and to “be endowed with power from on high” before going out “among all nations.” Then Doctrine and Covenants 105:1-5 the Lord says, “were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now…. They have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands … and are not united…. Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom….”

These scriptures tell me that God is working with us and doing all that He can do to redeem us, but we are not as obedient as we should be. The Brethren have spoken for years about our need to keep the Sabbath day holy. We are now in a situation where there are no Sunday meetings. How many members used the day to draw closer to God and family, and how many used the day to sleep in or to have fun? The Lord has provided the Come, Follow Me program to help us to study the scriptures at home. How many of us are obediently following the guidelines to study the scriptures? Remember, the Lord was upset with the church as a whole and not with individual members. I know that He has sent numerous little nudges to help me in my studies. Have I missed any promptings? Am I doing all that I can do?

I applied the doctrines in this Article of Faith to the real-life issues of racial strife and hatred in the following way. Heavenly Father is the Father of all mankind, and He loves all His children. He wants all His children to learn the gospel and to gather to the Church of Jesus Christ. The missionaries take the gospel to all people who will listen to them. As people accept the gospel and are baptized, they are gathered to the Church of Jesus Christ. As we live the gospel, we become better people. As we become better people, we bring Zion a little closer. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is seeking to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus Christ. His coming will usher in the Millennium.

            I believe that the amount of racial strife and hatred in the world would decrease if more people listened to the missionaries and gained better understanding of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and how They work “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). The better we understand that we are all God’s children, the more we love and serve our brothers and sisters of all races and nationalities.

            There are other blessings of the gospel that could decrease racial strife and hatred, and they include God’s ability to bless His righteous children in ways that cause them to prosper in the world. Gospel principles help people to overcome poverty, and more equal economic situations cause less stress between races and nations.

            The principles of work and self-reliance help many people to throw off the shackles of poverty and to raise their standard of living. I think that it was President Ezra Taft Benson who said that the gospel takes the slums out of people and the people take themselves out of the slums. The gospel of Jesus Christ makes us better people who are more capable of dealing with the trials of life that we face.

            Gathering people to the gospel of Jesus Christ blesses lives in many ways. However, I believe that knowledge of our relationship to Heavenly Father and His plan of salvation would go far in improving racial strife and hatred in our nation and throughout the world. Heavenly Father wants to bless all His children. He wants all of us to be gathered home to Zion. He wants all of us to be there to greet Jesus Christ with joyfulness when He returns. He wants all of us to grow and progress until we reach our potential and live together in love and harmony during the Millennium.

            The latter-days is the time period that began in the spring of 1820 when Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to the Boy Prophet, even Joseph Smith, to usher in the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and continues today. The last days is the time period just prior to the end of the world as we know it and the return of Jesus Christ to earth to reign as King.

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