Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who are often called Mormons by others, believe that Jesus Christ will return to earth one day. Mormons focus on what we know about that time and leave the rest to God.
“Four matters are indisputable to Latter-day Saints: (1) The Savior will return to the earth in power and great glory to reign personally during a millennium of righteousness and peace. (2) At the time of His coming there will be a destruction of the wicked and a resurrection of the righteous. (3) No one knows the time of His coming, but (4) the faithful are taught to study the signs of it and to be prepared for it. (See Dallin H. Oaks, “Preparation for the Second Coming,” Liahona, May 2004, 7–10)
Let’s look first at the first and second principles Elder Oaks mentioned. Mormons believe in the Second Coming. We can over cover what will happen briefly in this article. For a more detailed explanation, read the chapter on this subject in a book called Gospel Principles, chapter 44.
Mormon beliefs outline four things that will happen when Jesus returns:
1. The earth will be cleansed. The wicked will be destroyed, wicked things will be burned, and the earth itself will be cleansed.
2. The people will be judged. Matthew 25 in the New Testament outlines what will happen at this stage of the Second Coming, as the righteous are separated from those who did not make wise choices or care for those in need.
3. The Millennium will be ushered in. This is a one thousand year period when Jesus will reign on earth over people who lived good lives. Not all will be members of God’s church—they will simply be those who have lived moral lives. Missionary work will continue. During this time, Satan will have no power.
4. The first resurrection will be completed.
5. Jesus Christ will take his place as the King of Heaven and Earth. The church will become part of his government. He will rule here for one thousand years.
Elder Oaks reminds us we don’t know when that day will be. Matthew 25:13 says: Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. Mark 13 says:
32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
34 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:
36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.
Mormons are watchful, but they believe that they should always be prepared when the time comes, so knowing the exact date is not particularly important to them. They live each day to its fullest. Willford Woodruff, a former Mormon prophet, said that he lived as if it could be tomorrow, but he was still planting cherry trees.
Mormons believe that those who are prepared have no need to fear the Second Coming. They also don’t need to do anything special to prepare because they should be living the principles of the gospel every day of their lives, not just when they think it is time. Mormons believe they should live those principles out of love for the Savior, not out of fear. So, they keep the commandments and work every day on increasing their love for Jesus Christ. When the Second Coming happens, they will be ready without any special need to wait, worry, or change their lives.
However, they are taught the signs of the Second Coming and are taught to be watchful. This does not mean quitting jobs or selling what they own. It simply means they should be alert to the things happening around them—watching, but continuing to plant cherry trees. In other words, they prepare for the long-term future even as they see the signs occurring.
Following are some of the signs of the Second Coming: See Gospel Principles, Lesson 43, for details on these signs.
1. Wickedness, war, and turmoil: While these have been a part of nearly every time period, Daniel says it will be worse than anything the world has ever experienced.
2. Restoration of the Gospel: Some signs of the Second Coming are happy ones. Revelations, chapter 14, tells of an angel restoring the gospel.
6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
3. The gospel will be preached to all the world. This was prophesied in Matthew 24:14.
4. Elijah will come. This promise comes from Malachi 4:5-6. He said that in the last days Elijah would come to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. This is a reference to work done in Mormon temples and helps to explain the world-wide interest in genealogy that has arisen in recent times.
There are many other signs of the last days, and they can be fascinating to study and to watch for. They are God’s way of calling people to repentance. However, Mormons focus more on daily preparation than on watching signs.
Jesus told a parable of ten virgins invited to a wedding. When the bridegroom didn’t come as soon as expected, some people were not prepared to wait a little longer. Half of them had to rush out for more oil and ended up missing the wedding. Once the wedding began, they were not allowed in. It was too late.
Preparation is always the key to proper Christian living. Mormons are taught to repent of their sins, build strong families, study the gospel, pray regularly, read the Bible and Book of Mormon, and to generally live good lives. They are taught not to delay doing these things. They are advised to put together a temporal supply of food and supplies for the difficulties of the times ahead—a teaching proven wise by catastrophic events in Japan and other places. Spiritual preparation, however, is even more important.
What if the day of His coming were tomorrow? If we knew that we would meet the Lord tomorrow—through our premature death or through His unexpected coming—what would we do today? What confessions would we make? What practices would we discontinue? What accounts would we settle? What forgivenesses would we extend? What testimonies would we bear?
If we would do those things then, why not now? Why not seek peace while peace can be obtained? If our lamps of preparation are drawn down, let us start immediately to replenish them. (See Dallin H. Oaks, “Preparation for the Second Coming,” Liahona, May 2004, 7–10)