When I was teaching at the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, one of the classes I taught was on the book of Isaiah. While preparing for my discussion of the assigned chapters from Isaiah, I had a remarkable experience that had a powerful effect on me and my approach to the last days and view of the Second Coming. As I carefully studied Isaiah 24, which recounts many prophecies regarding conditions of the world in the last days, I began to feel gloomy, almost despondent:
• “The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled” (v. 3).
• “The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away” (v. 4).
• “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left” (vv. 5–6).
• “All joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone” (v. 11).
• “The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly” (v. 19).
• “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again” (v. 20).
• “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed” (v. 23).
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As I cross-referenced these prophecies to others in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants, the gloom and feelings of impending doom only increased. Wars. Weeping. Wailing. Flies. Maggots. Flesh falling off bones. Eyeballs falling from their sockets. Darkness. Devouring fire. What was there to feel good about? Was there any reason to live? Is there any hope for the future—my future, my children’s future, my grandchildren’s future?
As we see many of the signs of the times fulfilled right before our eyes—“wars and rumors of wars,” “the whole earth . . . in commotion,” “men’s hearts shall fail them,” “iniquity shall abound” (D&C 45:26–27)—it would be easy to become discouraged, even fearful. Yet the Savior has assured us, “Be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you” (D&C 68:6). Despite the deterioration of society, with the rapid decline of long-held moral and ethical values, the full-scale assault on religion and religious people, and the many ways in which family solidarity and happiness are being eroded, we can be optimistic—even joyous. “We are in the dispensation of the fulness of times, when the fulness of the gospel has been restored and as the world is being prepared for the glorious Second Coming of the Savior,” Elder Neil L. Andersen has taught. “These are days of looking forward, of beautiful anticipation. These are our days.”1 I like that phrase, “beautiful anticipation.” There was no fear or “gloom and doom” in Elder Andersen’s looking at the signs of the times. There were hope, joy, and even excitement. How can that be? Clearly, Elder Andersen was optimistic because he knows and understands the Lord’s promises. The Savior has promised us that not only will He come again, but He will strengthen and support His Saints as they face the trials and tribulations of the last days. Because of those promises, we too can and should have hope, optimism, and “beautiful anticipation.”
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Elder Andersen declared:
“As we find our way in a world less attentive to the commandments of God, we will certainly be prayerful, but we need not be overly alarmed. The Lord will bless His Saints with the added spiritual power necessary to meet the challenges of our day. “. . . As evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory spiritual power for the righteous. As the world slides from its spiritual moorings, the Lord prepares the way for those who seek Him, offering greater assurance, greater confirmation, and greater confidence in the spiritual direction they are traveling.”2
I sensed somewhat that “compensatory spiritual power” while studying chapter 25 of Isaiah in preparation for my class. The light of hope and optimism in that chapter soon dispelled the gloom and doom and despair that I had been feeling as I focused on the signs of disease and destruction enumerated in chapter 24. The very first verse caught me by surprise, coming right on the heels of so much darkness and discouragement. “O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (Isaiah 25:1). Then Isaiah identified the mighty, glorious things that God will do, as He promised, to bless His children and comfort them at the Savior’s coming. “For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall” (Isaiah 25:4). As I read the following words, my heart melted. A veritable flood of love and hope enveloped me. Tears flowed freely—tears of joy and gratitude.
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“He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.
“And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:8–9).
So many of my favorite hymns are those that speak encouraging words to the faithful as they joyfully await the Savior’s return and testify of the promised blessings that will accompany Him.
Oh, how joyful it will be
When our Savior we shall see!
When in splendor he’ll descend,
Then all wickedness will end.
Oh, what songs we then will sing
To our Savior, Lord, and King!
Oh, what love will then bear sway
When our fears shall flee away!
All arrayed in spotless white,
We will dwell ’mid truth and light.
We will sing the songs of praise;
We will shout in joyous lays.
Earth shall then be cleansed from sin.
Ev’ry living thing therein
Shall in love and beauty dwell;
Then with joy each heart will swell.3
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“And so great shall be the glory of his presence” (D&C 133:49). “For since the beginning of the world have not men heard nor perceived by the ear, neither hath any eye seen,” the scriptures attest, “how great things [God] hast prepared for him that waiteth for [the Lord]” (D&C 133:45).
Oh, what promises are in store for those who have waited for the Lord, whether in life or in death! And “they shall come forth and stand on the right hand of the Lamb, when he shall stand upon Mount Zion, and upon the holy city, the New Jerusalem; and they shall sing the song of the Lamb, day and night forever and ever” (D&C 133:56).
Oh, how I want to be there!
Lead image from Getty Images
1. Neil L. Andersen, “A Compensatory Spiritual Power for the Righteous,” BYU Devotional, August 18, 2015 (given during Campus Education Week).
3. Come, Ye Children of the Lord,” Hymns, no. 58.
So much is said about the Second Coming and the signs of the times—but what information can we really trust, and how can we be ready? Watch and Be Ready teaches that if we are spiritually prepared, we need not fear. In fact, we'll look forward to the event with joy and anticipation because we will be ready to participate in the Second Coming—whether from this world or the other side of the veil.