While as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are taught to prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ, we don't have to anxiously obsess over it. In his book, Living in the Eleventh Hour, Robert L. Millet explains how members can still look forward to the second coming without cataloging every event between then and now.
How should we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ feel about the fact that we do indeed live in the eleventh hour, the Saturday night of time? How does it make us feel to know that we are living through an era when more and more of the prophecies are being fulfilled?
The Savior declared to Sidney Rigdon: “The poor and the meek shall have the gospel preached unto them, and they shall be looking forth for the time of my coming, for it is nigh at hand—and they shall learn the parable of the fig tree, for even now already summer is nigh” (D&C 35:15–16).
Three months later the Prophet received the revelation recorded as section 45 of the Doctrine and Covenants, an oracle that makes known many of the signs of the times. “Ye look and behold the fig trees,” the Lord said, “and ye see them with your eyes, and ye say when they begin to shoot forth, and their leaves are yet tender, that summer is now nigh at hand; even so it shall be in that day when they shall see all these things, then shall they know that the hour is nigh. And it shall come to pass that he that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man” (D&C45:37–39). In other words, the faithful will look forward to the Lord’s advent with excitement and sweet anticipation.
One of the challenges we face is to anticipate that day without obsessing over it. We should study and reflect deeply on the holy word concerning what lies ahead, not so that we can chronicle and correlate and prepare formulas and distribute lists and set forth specific schedules but rather so that we can prepare our souls properly for that sublime occasion.
We might well ask ourselves, “Our Lord and Savior is coming. What do I need to do today to prepare myself for tomorrow? What efforts can I make now to ensure that when he does come he will see my face with pleasure? What kinds of activities might I be engaged in that will cause me to feel comfortable and confident at that time? What elements in my life and lifestyle, person and personality, need to be jettisoned for me to enjoy that measure of spiritual enlightenment so desperately needed in these last days?”
Interestingly, the three parables of preparation found in Matthew 25 point toward specific things you and I can do to better prepare ourselves, our families, and those under our charge to welcome the coming Lord.
Jesus taught: “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching; for he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. For, behold, he cometh in the first watch of the night, and he shall also come in the second watch, and again he shall come in the third watch. And verily I say unto you, He hath already come, as it is written of him” (JST, Luke 12:40–42; emphasis added). What a strange statement! How is it that our Lord comes in the first watch of the night and also in the second and third watches? In addition, how has he come already?
Elder Bruce R. McConkie offered the following insights: “One of the great incentives which encourages and entices men to live lives of personal righteousness, is the doctrine of the Second Coming of the Messiah. Many revelations speak of the signs which shall precede our Lord’s return; others tell of the tragic yet glorious events which shall attend and accompany his return to earth; and still others recite the good and ill which shall befall the living and the dead at that time. All this is preserved in holy writ so that men will be led to prepare themselves for the day of the Lord, the day when he shall take vengeance upon the ungodly and pour forth blessings upon those who love his appearing. (D&C 133:50–52; 2 Thessalonians 1:7–10) . . .
“All of the Lord’s ministers, all of the members of his Church, and for that matter all men everywhere (‘What I say unto one, I say unto all’), are counseled to await with righteousness the coming of the Lord. However, most men will die before he comes, and only those then living will rejoice or tremble, as the case may be, at his personal presence. But all who did prepare will be rewarded as though they had lived when he came, while the wicked will be ‘cut asunder’ and appointed their ‘portion with the hypocrites’ as surely as though they lived in the very day of dread and vengeance.
“Thus, in effect, the Lord comes in every watch of the night, on every occasion when men are called to face death and judgment.”
Keeping an eye on the end almost always helps one to deal properly with the means. Or, stated differently, being aware of what lies ahead can be extremely valuable in knowing how best to handle challenging circumstances and trying situations now. If my marriage is performed by one holding the sealing power, when the sealer marries my wife and me “for time and all eternity,” I am much more likely to focus my attention on building a strong and enduring relationship than if the ceremony were merely a civil ordinance “till death do you part.” Knowing that families are intended to span the veil of death and continue everlastingly motivates me to make an appreciable effort to forgive, assume the best, and labor unceasingly to make our home a bit of heaven on earth and the members of the household a forever family. Stephen R. Covey taught simply, “Begin with the end in mind.”
In speaking of the Lord’s coming in glory and considering what events must transpire, the apostle Peter asked, “What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on re shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” (2 Peter 3:11–12; emphasis added). The New International Version renders the same passage as follows: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” While the day of Christ’s second coming is no doubt as set as was the day of the his first coming, there are things we can do to hasten our own righteous preparation and hurry along the establishment of Zion.
In January 1831 the Lord Jesus addressed himself to James Covill, a Methodist minister who demonstrated briefly an interest in the restored gospel. “Go forth baptizing with water, preparing the way before my face for the time of my coming; for the time is at hand; the day or the hour no man knoweth; but it surely shall come. And he that receiveth these things receiveth me; and they shall be gathered unto me in time and in eternity. And again, it shall come to pass that on as many as ye shall baptize with water, ye shall lay your hands, and they shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and shall be looking forth for the signs of my coming, and shall know me” (D&C 39:20–23; emphasis added).
Truly, those members of the Church of Jesus Christ who cultivate the gift of the Holy Ghost and enjoy its sweet fruits—these are they who will have come to be like him and who will then, in that great day, see Christ as he is (1 John 3:1–2). And they will know him.