Section 45: The Second Coming of the Lord
The arrival of the Prophet Joseph in Kirtland marked the beginning of a period of rapid growth in the membership of the Church. By early June 1831 the Church had grown to two thousand in number. Civic leaders, priests, newspaper editors, and parishioners joined together in an effort to stop the conversion of their neighbors to the new religion. In his history the prophet recorded, “Many false reports, lies, and foolish stories, were published in the newspapers, and circulated in every direction, to prevent people from investigating the work, or embracing the faith” (HC, 1:158). During these trying times of slander and abuse, the Lord blessed the saints with revelations of comfort, peace and assurance. One of these revelations was section 45, of which the prophet wrote, “To the joy of the saints who had to struggle against every thing that prejudice and wickedness could invent, I received the following: [D&C 45]” (Ibid.). Joseph received section 45 on March 7, 1831.
At the time section 45 was received, Joseph Smith had been in Kirtland scarcely more than a month, and the large majority of the New York saints were still in New York, not due to arrive in Kirtland for weeks.
In 1831, as now, the exact circumstances and details of the second coming of Christ generated a lot of speculation, much of it unhealthy, among the saints. In Kirtland during this period, counterfeit spiritual phenomena and false spirits accompanied extreme doctrinal speculations about the second coming and were greatly troubling to the Church. Section 45 may have been given in part to answer some of the questions of the members and to quiet down the extreme speculations and doctrinal hysteria in which some were indulging.
Just three days before his crucifixion, Jesus and his disciples left the temple and climbed the Mount of Olives, where they had a dramatic view of the temple and Jerusalem. Here his disciples asked the Lord about his second coming in glory. They asked, “When shall these things be . . . and what is the sign of thy coming?” (JS-M 1:4). His lengthy and detailed answer provides one of the most important revelations on the signs of the times and of the second coming. Known as the Olivet discourse because it was given on the Mount of Olives, the full discourse is given in Matthew 24 and 25. Joseph Smith’s inspired corrections of the Olivet discourse are so significant that they have been included in the Pearl of Great Price (Joseph Smith-Matthew). Mark and Luke also recorded portions of the discourse, though not as fully as did Matthew (see Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36). In response to his disciples’ questions the Lord spoke of the temple in Jerusalem in the latter days, the last days of the world, and of the signs that would precede his second coming.
Section 45 expands on Matthew’s account, as the Lord revealed to his latter-day Church additional insights concerning the subjects of his Olivet discourse. Section 45 is one of the most powerful views into the future that is available in all of our recorded scripture.
As one reads section 45, it is sometimes difficult to know to whom the Lord is speaking and to what period of time he is referring. Thus for clarification the verse commentary will serve to orient the reader to the Lord’s audience.
D&C 45 The Second Coming of the Lord
D&C 45:3-5 Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.
D&C 45:36-39 Parable of the fig tree. D&C 45:51-53 These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
verses 1-10 Introduction and salutation from the Lord
1 Hearken, O ye people of my church, to whom the kingdom has been given; hearken ye and give ear to him who laid the foundation of the earth, who made the heavens and all the hosts thereof, and by whom all things were made which live, and move, and have a being.
verse 1 “Hearken, O ye people of my church” “hearken ye and give ear” The Lord’s injunction for his people to listen is repeated ten times in the first fifteen verses of section 45. This strong emphasis on hearing and receiving this information identifies section 45 to be of major doctrinal importance to the Church, both in 1831 and today.
2 And again I say, hearken unto my voice, lest death shall overtake you; in an hour when ye think not the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved.
verse 2 “lest death shall overtake you” Those who fail to heed the Lord’s warning voice run the risk of being found unredeemed from sin when the Lord returns. Also, none of us is getting out of this mortal life alive. The end of the world comes every day for somebody, and not in the too distant future for all of us. When our last day arrives we will not be spared the pains of hell if our souls are not yet saved.
“in an hour when ye think not the summer shall be past” Summer is the time to labor and to prepare a harvest with which one may survive the winter. President Joseph Fielding Smith noted:
In all ages of the world it has been the peculiar belief of men that the sayings of the prophets were to be fulfilled in times still future. That is true of the people today. We have had ample warning of the nearness of the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. . . . In this revelation [section 45] we are given the warning that the summer is passing and if we are heedless of the warning we will find the summer past, the harvest ended and our souls not saved. While no man knows the day or the hour, yet if we are taken unawares, we will be without excuse for the signs are ample and we now see them being fulfilled (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:195).
3 Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—
verse 3 Unless our Savior pleads our case, we will not be exalted. He defends us, not by citing our merits, not by arguing our righteous deeds, but by arguing from his position as Savior of the world which he merits by virtue of his awful and selfless sacrifice. He pleads for us for his sake. It is as if he were saying to those who enforce the demands of justice, “Show mercy to him not for him, but for me.” He pleads for those who accept and enter into his everlasting covenant and endure in it and for those who would have had they had the opportunity (D&C 137:5-9).
4 Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;
verse 4 “him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified” In some way we don’t fully understand, when each of us is exalted, we add to the glory—the light and spiritual assets—of the Father (and the Son).
5 Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.
verse 5 “Father, spare these my brethren” The Savior pleads for each of his people (members of his earthly kingdom) to be spared from the demands of the law of justice which dictate that no one who has sinned (“no unclean thing”) can enter the kingdom of heaven (1 Nephi 15:34; Alma 11:37).
verses 3-5 These verses may be used as evidence that the Father is the enforcer of the demands of justice. Certainly the Father is the epitome, essence, and personification of justice. He is by his very nature just. It is not in his nature to be otherwise. The Father may exercise his influence in enforcing the law of justice. These verses support this possibility. Here, the Son is pleading our case before the Father.
There is, however, evidence to suggest that it is not the Father who is the enforcer of justice. See a discussion of this interesting topic in “Who or What Enforces the Law of Justice?” in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 12, The Law of Justice.
6 Hearken, O ye people of my church, and ye elders listen together, and hear my voice while it is called today, and harden not your hearts;
verse 6 “while it is called today” This phrase refers to this dispensation from the restoration of the gospel to the second coming of the Lord (see D&C 65:23). For each of us who live in this dispensation, this phrase also refers to the period between our mortal birth and our resurrection. Thus, it includes the time we spend on earth and in the world of spirits. Other scriptural phrases that refer to this same period of time include “today” and “the day of this life.” Hence, “tomorrow” begins at the resurrection, after which change is no longer possible, and when we enter into a “new day” of our spiritual existence. “Yesterday” can also be understood in reference to the period of our premortal life.
7 For verily I say unto you that I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the light and the life of the world—a light that shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
verse 7 “I am Alpha and Omega” See the commentary for D&C 19:1.
“a light that shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not” The Savior’s light shines throughout the universe. It even shines on the wicked and unworthy. But they “comprehendeth it not”—they do not perceive or benefit from it. It is as though the light does not shine on them. For a more thorough discussion of the light of Christ, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 15, The Concept of Light.
8 I came unto mine own, and mine own received me not; but unto as many as received me gave I power to do many miracles, and to become the sons of God; and even unto them that believed on my name gave I power to obtain eternal life.
verse 8 “I came unto mine own, and mine own received me not” This phrase refers to the children of the covenant that Jehovah, or Christ, made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or Israel—particularly those belonging to Jesus’s own tribe of Judah. Jesus refers here to the generation of Jews who rejected him.
Even though the Jews did not receive him, we should not say that they were responsible for his crucifixion. Not all, or even most, of the Jews of Jesus’s day shared responsibility for that crime, nor does any Jew born after that time. To argue that subsequent generations of Jews are guilty of the blood of Christ is to suppose some sort of “original sin” or “inherited guilt” passed from parents to their children, which idea, of course, is ludicrous.
“unto as many as received me gave I power” Those Jews in Jesus’s day who received him and his teachings were given the gospel, the priesthood, the new and everlasting covenant, and the fulness of gospel ordinances.
9 And even so I have sent mine everlasting covenant into the world, to be a light to the world, and to be a standard for my people, and for the Gentiles to seek to it, and to be a messenger before my face to prepare the way before me.
verse 9 “I have sent mine everlasting covenant into the world” This phrase refers to the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this latter day.
“to be a standard for my people” The word standard is a synonym for an ensign (compare D&C 98:34; 105:39). Both terms refer to a sign, banner, flag, emblem, or other object that can be raised or held aloft to help troops, followers, disciples, or members gather or rally to the correct side or the correct place, or to help keep them oriented and in their proper place once they have been organized.
Ultimately, Jesus Christ himself, raised up on the cross in his sacrificial role as the Lamb of God, is the ensign to the nations, who will gather the faithful to himself and keep them oriented and in their right place in Zion once they have been gathered.
Today the ensign raised up to the nations in the latter days is his restored gospel, his everlasting covenant, his Zion. To this latter-day ensign the Gentiles will gather, and in so doing they will also gather to the Christ who was crucified and raised up on the cross—the ultimate ensign. It is appropriate that the church’s publication most directly responsible for proclaiming the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to the world is appropriately called the Ensign.
“and for the Gentiles to seek to it” We have mentioned previously that our dispensation begins with the times of the Gentiles (see verse 28)—that period when the gospel is taken and taught first to the Gentiles, and then later to the Jews—just as the preceding dispensation began with the gospel’s being taken first to the Jews, and then also to the Gentiles (see 1 Nephi 13:42). The Gentiles are the inhabitants of all the nations of the earth, from Albania to Zimbabwe, every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Preaching the gospel to all the world in this manner is a work primarily reserved for our latter-day dispensation.
“to be a messenger before my face” Just as John the Baptist was an Elias who prepared the way for Christ, so the latter-day Church prepares the way for the millennial kingdom of God that will be established at the second coming of Christ.
10 Wherefore, come ye unto it, and with him that cometh I will reason as with men in days of old, and I will show unto you my strong reasoning.
verse 10 “I will reason as with men in days of old” This phrase carries with it the idea that Christ will “reason with” or try to convince men that his covenant and gospel are on the earth and comprise our only way home—back to his presence.
verses 11-14 These verses contain a teaching example involving Enoch. In connection with the Lord’s coming there will be a cleansing of wickedness and a destruction of the wicked. Enoch escaped wickedness by living righteously and being translated. Thus if one lives as righteously, one may escape destruction at the Lord’s coming.
11 Wherefore, hearken ye together and let me show unto you even my wisdom— the wisdom of him whom ye say is the God of Enoch, and his brethren,
verse 11 “let my show unto you even my wisdom—the wisdom of him whom ye say is the God of Enoch” At the time this revelation was received, the prophet Joseph had already received the revelation now known as Moses 6-7, the book of Enoch. The Lord seems to be pointing out that Enoch and his people created a Zion society and were taken to heaven by the same Lord who is now speaking and by the same celestial principles that are now being revealed to the people. The Lord is just as able to lead us to Zion, and then to heaven, today as he was able to lead Enoch and his people to Zion, and then to heaven, in their day, and he will do so if members of the Church will keep his commandments.
12 Who were separated from the earth, and were received unto myself—a city reserved until a day of righteousness shall come—a day which was sought for by all holy men, and they found it not because of wickedness and abominations;
verse 12 “Who were separated from the earth, and were received unto myself” According to Moses 7:21, the Zion of Enoch and its people were taken physically off the earth before the Flood, just as the future inhabitants of Zion will be taken physically off the earth before the burning (see D&C 88:96-98; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Nephi 13:37). Joseph Smith explained that the people of Enoch were not taken to the direct presence of God, but were translated to a terrestrial order (TPJS, 170). This would be roughly the same level of glory as found in Eden before the fall and which will exist during the Millennium after the earth receives its paradisiacal glory (see Articles of Faith 1:10, where “paradisiacal” refers to a state like Eden). Joseph further stated that God “appointed unto him [Enoch] a ministry unto terrestrial bodies,” and that Enoch’s saints are “held in reserve to be ministering angels unto many planets” (HC, 4:209-210).
“a city reserved until a day of righteousness shall come” When this earth has been raised to a terrestrial glory during the Millennium, then the Zion of Enoch shall be physically returned to the earth (see D&C 133:24; Moses 7:63).
“a day which was sought for by all holy men, and they found it not because of wickedness and abominations” After recording that Enoch was translated, Paul says that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their seed after them (they obviously knew what had taken place as pertaining to the people of Melchizedek and others) “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:5-10), that is, they “sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken” (JST, Genesis 14:34). But as Paul said, and as the Lord confirms in this verse, even these “holy men . . . found it not [it was not available to the people of the earth] because of wickedness and abominations” (D&C 45:11-12; Hebrews 11:11-16; Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., 80405).
13 And confessed they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth;
verse 13 “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” This phrase is commonly found in scripture (see Hebrews 11:13-16; 1 Peter 2:11; see also Ephesians 2:19). In the Bible, the word stranger most often refers to someone who lives in a land though his citizenship is somewhere else. A pilgrim is someone on a journey—just passing through. Those who look for the establishment of righteousness upon the earth and long to be citizens of Christ’s kingdom when he returns must not feel too much at home in this telestial or fallen world. By virtue of Jesus Christ and the covenants we have made with him, we are already citizens of a better country than any now found upon the earth. In this telestial realm we are pilgrims just passing through—citizens of a better world forced to wait and dwell in Babylon until Zion is established.
In this particular verse those holy men, who longed for a better world, readily, and doubtless regretfully, confessed that they themselves were “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” That is, they regretted that the earth was not more righteous, so that they would not be “strangers and pilgrims.”
14 But obtained a promise that they should find it and see it in their flesh.
verse 14 This promise that the City of Zion shall return, and that holy men of all ages, in their resurrected state, shall dwell therein, will have millennial fulfillment. Of that glorious day, the Lord said unto Enoch: “Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other; And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made; and for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest” (Moses 7:63-64).
In giving revealed direction to Noah, the Lord said: “Remember the everlasting covenant, which I made unto thy father Enoch; that, when men should keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch, which I have caught up unto myself. And this is mine everlasting covenant, that when thy posterity shall embrace the truth, and look upward, then shall Zion look downward, and all the heavens shall shake with gladness, and the earth shall tremble with joy; And the general assembly of the church of the first-born shall come down out of heaven, and possess the earth, and shall have place until the end come. And this is mine everlasting covenant, which I made with thy father Enoch” (JST, Genesis 9:21-23). All who have received the fulness of the gospel and its ordinances have received this same promise made to the patriarchs. We are the “children of the promise” made to the fathers.
verses 15-16a (to the colon) The Lord is addressing the saints in 1831.
15 Wherefore, hearken and I will reason with you, and I will speak unto you and prophesy, as unto men in days of old.
verse 15 “I will speak unto you and prophesy, as unto men in days of old” God is willing to give us the same covenant promises and the same gospel that he gave to Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and so on. If we are faithful to our covenants, we will, according to the promises of God, be like the ancient saints. That is, we will be patriarchs (and matriarchs) of an innumerable posterity in a glorious promised land, the celestial kingdom. This promise is guaranteed to us by the same gospel covenants that were given our ancient fathers. God is willing, and even anxious, to deal with each of us as he dealt with Adam and Eve or with Abraham and Sarah. All that was ever available to them is available to us through the restoration of the gospel. Thus, God is the same in his dealings with human beings yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
16a And I will show it plainly as I showed it unto my disciples as I stood before them in the flesh, and spake unto them, saying:
verse 16a “I will show it plainly” Beginning with this verse, the Lord begins to tell the latter-day Church what he told his ancient disciples when they asked him about the details of his second coming. The “it” the Lord will show us is the “day of righteousness” (verse 12) that will begin with his return to the earth at his second coming.
verses 16b-59 He is now speaking to his disciples on the Mount of Olives. This quotation begins following the colon which follows the word saying and extends to the end of verse 59, excepting the editorial comment in verse 34 and the first five words of verse 35 (compare JS-M in the Pearl of Great Price).
16b As ye have asked of me concerning the signs of my coming, in the day when I shall come in my glory in the clouds of heaven, to fulfil the promises that I have made unto your fathers,
verse 16b The Lord’s citation of the Olivet discourse, the same as is contained in Matthew 24 and 25 and in Joseph Smith–Matthew, begins in this verse with the words “As ye have asked of me.” The Savior interrupts the quotation after verse 33 to make an explanatory comment (which includes verse 34 and the first five words of verse 35) but continues it in verse 35 with “Be not troubled.” He seems to end the account at the end of verse 59 and begins speaking directly to Joseph Smith in verse 60.
“in the clouds of heaven” This phrase is a reference to the prophecy in Daniel 7:13, where Daniel saw in a dream the end of the world and the second coming of Christ.
“to fulfil the promises that I have made unto your fathers” All the promises of the gospel will be fulfilled for the righteous at their glorious resurrection, which takes place at the Lord’s second coming.
17 For as ye have looked upon the long absence of your spirits from your bodies to be a bondage, I will show unto you how the day of redemption shall come, and also the restoration of the scattered Israel.
verses 16-17 “ye have looked upon the long absence of your spirits from your bodies to be a bondage” By the time of the Lord’s second coming, the righteous dead, including many of Jesus’s ancient disciples, will look upon their time in the spirit world without their bodies as a severe limitation (see also D&C 138:50). While spirits in paradise are without pain, they cannot accomplish many things that can be done only with a body. A body of flesh and bones is not, as in Greek philosophical thought, a limitation. Rather, it is an enabling factor. It is ability, potency, and power, and we will dearly miss its use in the spirit world where we will be temporarily deprived of that means to effect, to create, and to accomplish.
“the day of redemption” This phrase refers to the day when we actually return to our physical bodies and receive celestial, terrestrial, or telestial glory. This redemption or salvation puts us, as Joseph Smith taught, beyond the reach of all of our enemies which are death, hell, and the devil (see the commentary for 2 Nephi 28:23).
“the restoration of the scattered Israel” The Lord’s apostles were anxious to know the signs of the Lord’s second coming because they understood that a major resurrection of the righteous would occur at that time. They were anxious to know how long they would have to wait after their deaths until their resurrection. We actually know that the resurrection of the righteous, the “morning of the first resurrection,” begins at the time of the Savior’s resurrection. While some of the righteous dead may be resurrected between the Savior’s resurrection and his second coming, many of the righteous dead will have to wait until his coming just prior to the Millennium to be resurrected. His apostles were also aware that the Lord’s second coming would not occur until after the final gathering of Israel, “the restoration of the scattered Israel.”
verses 18-24 The Lord is speaking to his disciples about events that would happen in their own day. These include the tribulations that will fall upon Jerusalem and its people in the first century AD. We now know that all of these prophecies were all fulfilled with the events surrounding the devastating Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
18 And now ye behold this temple which is in Jerusalem, which ye call the house of God, and your enemies say that this house shall never fall.
19 But, verily I say unto you, that desolation shall come upon this generation as a thief in the night, and this people shall be destroyed and scattered among all nations.
verse 19 “desolation shall come upon this generation” A place is made desolate by being turned into a wasteland without inhabitants. A person is made desolate by being left alone without companions or comfort. The people of “this generation,” that is, the Jews of the second half of the first century, will be made desolate as individuals, and their homes and cities will become desolate places. An incredibly large number of Jews will die (Josephus said it was over a million—Josephus, The Jewish War, 450), and many of the remainder will be driven out or sold as slaves into all corners of the world. Their temple will be destroyed so thoroughly that not one stone would be left standing upon another (see verse 20).
“this people shall be destroyed” In AD 68, the Roman general Vespasian and his son Titus took a large Roman army into Israel to subdue rebellious Judah. In AD 70 Titus surrounded Jerusalem and placed it under siege. Soon the starvation of the Jews inside the walls of Jerusalem began. Citizens of Jerusalem who ventured outside the walls to search for roots to eat, if seized, were crucified by the Roman soldiers. Sometimes hundreds of Jews hanging on crosses could be seen from the city walls. A trench was dug around the city in order to make its isolation complete. Prisoners of war were cut open, while still alive, to enable soldiers to search their bodies for gold which they might have swallowed. Six hundred thousand persons died within the walls, and the dead bodies, too numerous to be buried, were left in the houses. The Zealots, a fanatical sect whose members maintained that God would save them at the last moment, went about murdering and urging the people to resistance. Within the walls of the Holy City, rival political factions stole the possessions of citizens and the food from the mouths of women and children. Pressed by the famine, mothers ate their babies. In their madness, the political gangs fought and killed each other for control of the city and even burned each other’s food supplies, all while the common enemy, the Romans, waited outside the walls for the inevitable (Ibid., 387-401, 416-17). Even Titus was sick at heart at the daily horrors he witnessed or heard about. At length the temple became a fort. Titus attacked it as such. A Roman soldier, contrary to order, set fire to it. After a while the scene was one of carnage and plunder. Six thousand Jews perished in the flames. In this awful war more than a million and a half of the Jews perished, and many were sold into slavery.
Like the generation before the Flood, the generation of the Babylonian conquest, and the generations at the end of the Jaredite and Nephite societies, so was the generation of the first Jewish revolt. Because the people had become ripe in iniquity, the Spirit of the Lord had ceased striving with them, and Satan had full power over their hearts. Drunk with their own sins and with anger and rage, they could not be reached, would not repent, and were sealed up to destruction.
“and scattered among all nations” Just as the lost ten tribes had been taken into bondage and scattered eight hundred years previously, the Jews will be dispersed among every nation on earth. Today, the dispersed of Israel in many cases are not even aware of their Israelite heritage, having been absorbed ethnically and culturally by the nations in which they dwell.
20 And this temple which ye now see shall be thrown down that there shall not be left one stone upon another.
21 And it shall come to pass, that this generation of Jews shall not pass away until every desolation which I have told you concerning them shall come to pass.
verses 21 The Savior spoke the words of the Olivet discourse during the last week of his life. Jerusalem fell in AD 70. Thus, his promise “that this generation of Jews shall not pass away until every desolation . . . shall come to pass” was fulfilled. Some of the disciples who heard Jesus speak those words were still alive when the legions of Titus put the temple to the torch.
Actually, a “generation” is a notoriously difficult measure of time to define. Is a generation (1) twelve to sixteen years, the biological minimum; (2) twenty years, an average for birth of a firstborn; (3) thirty years, the average age difference between most parents and children; (4) seventy years, the biblical human life span; or (5) a hundred plus years, the length of the longest individual life within a generation? Whenever the Lord gives a warning that “this generation shall not pass away,” it is better to repent immediately and avoid the vagaries of the definition of a “generation.” There exists even the possibility, however, that “this generation” can even refer to this dispensation. When the term is used, for example, in D&C 84:4, it could mean anytime between the restoration of the gospel and the Lord’s second coming.
22 Ye say that ye know that the end of the world cometh; ye say also that ye know that the heavens and the earth shall pass away;
verse 22 “the end of the world” By now, the reader knows that the phrase “end of the world” coincides with the second coming of the Savior. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
The end of the world is the end of unrighteousness or of worldliness as we know it, and this will be brought about by “the destruction of the wicked.” When our world ends and the millennial era begins, there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17-25; D&C 101:23-24). Lust, carnality, and sensuousness of every sort will cease, for it will be the end of the world (Mormon Doctrine, 848).
We thus learn that the scriptural phrase “end of the world” refers to the destruction of the earth at the Lord’s second coming in glory.
“the heavens and the earth shall pass away” The phrase “end of the earth” (in this case “the earth shall pass away”) refers to the destruction and celestialization of the earth at the end of the Millennium.
23 And in this ye say truly, for so it is; but these things which I have told you shall not pass away until all shall be fulfilled.
verse 23 “until all shall be fulfilled” The Lord has prophesied of the latter-day restoration of the gospel and the establishment of Zion, the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and the destruction and scattering of the Jewish people. All of these will transpire before the second coming of the Lord.
24 And this I have told you concerning Jerusalem; and when that day shall come, shall a remnant be scattered among all nations;
verse 24 “shall a remnant be scattered among all nations” Those Jews who escape the great destructions of AD 70—“a remnant”—shall be scattered among all nations. In AD 70, the blood of the “Jews” would have been carried into the world mainly through those of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi.
verses 25-50 Prior to the Lord’s second coming there are to be given signs to warn the people of this advent and invite all to repent. These are called “signs of the times.” These will occur in such a way that only those who are watching for them in faith and have the Spirit will recognize them for what they are. Those who do not have the Spirit will rationalize them away and will find alternative explanations for the Lord’s signs. “And unto you it shall be given to know the signs of the times” (D&C 68:11). Later on, the signs of the Lord’s coming will serve not only to warn, but also to punish and cleanse. For a relatively thorough discussion of the signs of the times, please see three chapters in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine volume 3: chapter 24, Signs of the Lord’s Second Coming—Introduction, chapter 25, Signs of the Lord’s Second Coming— Those that Warn, and chapter 26, Signs of the Lord’s Second Coming—Those that Punish and Cleanse.
25 But they shall be gathered again; but they shall remain until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
verse 25 The Jews shall be eventually gathered again, but they shall remain scattered until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled. It would appear that the gathering of the Jews will occur in two phases. There will be a physical gathering to the land of Palestine. This has already begun and is, in fact, well underway. This verse, however, refers to the priesthood gathering or the gathering of the Jews to the Savior and to his gospel and earthly kingdom. This will not commence until “the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
In order to understand the meaning of the phrase “the times of the Gentiles” or “days of the Gentiles” (2 Nephi 27:1), one must first understand the meaning of the concept of the “great Gentile nation.” Any nation that does not have the Messiah as its king is a Gentile nation. The “great Gentile nation” seen in prophecy is the United States of America. The “times of the Gentiles” is the latter-day period when only Gentile nations exist on the earth before the beginning of the Millennium. The fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in that latter day will be in the hands of the missionaries of the great Gentile nation—the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Through the efforts of these “Gentile” missionaries, the gospel will be disseminated to those of the house of Israel wherever they may be found throughout the world. The “times of the Gentiles” will also be a time of universal apostasy and much wickedness. The “fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles” will be when the Lord Jesus Christ takes control of the secular government of the earth and there are no more “Gentile governments.” The actual fulfillment of the “times of the Gentiles” will apparently occur when the Lord, some time before his second coming in glory, sets his foot on the Mount of Olives to rescue the Jews from a great marauding force. The mount will cleave in twain. The Lord will show unto the Jews the wounds in his hands and in his feet. At that moment the Jews will realize that Jesus is the Messiah. The Jews will experience great remorse and will repent and accept Christ and his gospel and his Church. This event will mark the fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles, and it will usher in the “day of the Jew.”
A simpler criterion for the end of the “times of the Gentiles” is when the Gentile nations of all the world have had their fair chance to accept or reject the gospel. At that time it will be taken from them and will go once again to the children of Judah
The Lord said, “But many [that are] first shall be last; and the last [shall be] first” (Matthew 19:30). During the days of the mortal Christ and his apostles the gospel was taken first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. In this dispensation the order is reversed. The gospel is taken first to the Gentiles and then to the Jews.
The question is often asked, “Has the gathering of the Jews to their promised land begun?” Just as the scattering of a people occurs because of apostasy, so does gathering occur because of repentance and acceptance of Christ and his gospel. By this criterion, and as discussed above, one might argue that the real prophesied gathering of the Jews has not yet commenced. Yet who can doubt that the spirit of gathering has begun to move upon the Jews scattered throughout all parts of the world. Elder George Q. Morris said in conference:
This statement by a writer is very interesting: “Strangely enough when the State of Israel was reborn in 1948, it was a nation of 600,000, the same number which the Bible reports that Moses led out of bondage in Egypt. It now numbers some two million, the same number which it is said populated the ancient kingdom of Solomon, when Israel was in all its glory.” That is why we may now say that the Jews have returned to Palestine (CR, April 1960, 100-01).
26 And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that Christ delayeth his coming until the end of the earth.
verse 26 “in that day” This phrase refers to that day, time, or generation in which the times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled (compare verse 30).
“wars and rumors of wars” As we approach the end of the times of the Gentiles and come closer to the second coming of Christ, social and political conditions on the earth will deteriorate and the earth will become a very dangerous place.
“men’s hearts shall fail them” People will become disheartened; there will be widespread despair, discouragement, despondency, and depression.
27 And the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound.
verses 27 “the love of men shall wax cold” As we approach the end of the world, we can expect natural human affection to decrease outside of Zion. Practical evidences of this loss might include an increase in spouse and child abuse, an increase in divorce rates, an increase in abortion, and a decrease in parental responsibility toward their children. Traditional families will cease to be the norm or even to be valued.
28 And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fulness of my gospel;
verse 28 “when the times of the Gentiles is come in” The Lord now goes back and summarizes again, in verses 28-30, the “times of the Gentiles.” They began with the restoration of the gospel. The expression “a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness” has reference to the restoration of the gospel.
29 But they receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men.
verse 29 “they receive it not” This phrase has reference to the majority of the world, those “that sit in darkness.”
30 And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
verse 30 The times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled when the latter-day Church has completed its mission to take the gospel to every nation and when the majority of Gentiles have rejected it in favor of “the precepts of men.”
31 And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land.
verse 31 “an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land” It is probably fair to say that it is not possible to speculate as yet as to what this “desolating sickness” might be. A careful reading of this verse in association with the prior verse places this “overflowing scourge” in the generation in which the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled which has not happened as yet. Because of our experience, here on earth, with the devastating effects of AIDS, we can well imagine the occurrence of an awful plague.
Elsewhere in the Doctrine and Covenants we are taught that this scourge “shall continue to be poured out from time to time, if they repent not, until the earth is empty” (D&C 5:19), and that “it shall not be stayed until the Lord come” (D&C 97:23; see also D&C 84:97). Whatever the scourge is to be, the prophecy of its arrival cannot be fulfilled until after the gospel has been taught in every nation and to every kindred, tongue, and people, and the Gentiles have rejected it. Nor can this prophecy be deemed fulfilled until the sickness has covered the whole land and left it “desolated,” which our contemporary diseases have not yet done.
It is possible, I suppose, that the “scourge” spoken of could include such non-biological plagues as some form of wickedness, crime, war, or utter despair that will descend upon Babylon at the end (see Zechariah 14:12, 15, 18, in which the plague is said to consume the flesh of the wicked at the last day).
32 But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.
verse 32 “But my disciples shall stand in holy places” Where is safety? in the latter-day Kingdom of God.
President Ezra Taft Benson defined “holy places”: “Holy men and holy women 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’ (D&C 115:6)” (“Prepare Yourselves for the Great Day of the Lord,” 68).
33 And there shall be earthquakes also in divers places, and many desolations; yet men will harden their hearts against me, and they will take up the sword, one against another, and they will kill one another.
verse 33 “there shall be earthquakes also in divers places, and many desolations” As the end approaches, disasters that leave the land desolate, such as earthquakes, famines, floods, droughts, storms, and wars, will increase. Yet, as in the days of Noah, the people will not listen, but will thirst all the more for wickedness and violence.
After this verse the Lord interrupts his citation of the Olivet discourse for an explanation contained in the next verse. He then resumes the discourse in verse 35 with “Be not troubled.”
34 And now, when I the Lord had spoken these words unto my disciples, they were troubled.
35 And I said unto them: Be not troubled, for, when all these things shall come to pass, ye may know that the promises which have been made unto you shall be fulfilled.
verse 35 “Be not troubled” Those saints who are obedient and prepared can well afford to be calm and serene in the coming turmoil.
“ye may know” The occurrence of all the promised curses and plagues upon the wicked will be a testimony to the faithful that the promised blessings will also come and that the end is very near.
36 And when the light shall begin to break forth, it shall be with them like unto a parable which I will show you—
37 Ye look and behold the fig-trees, 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;
verse 37 “And as [Jesus] sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what [shall be] the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus responded by speaking of certain signs that would indicated the nearness of his coming. Among these signs was the “parable of the fig-tree.” One characteristic of a fig tree is that it does not put forth its leaves until relatively late in the season, long after most trees are in full leaf. The Savior used this feature in a parable concerning his second coming. “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer [the Savior’s second coming] [is] nigh” (Matthew 24:32). Using the parable of the fig-tree, President Spencer W. Kimball made a prophetic pronouncement: “The leaves are commencing to show on the fig tree” (Ensign, May 1976, 74).
38 Even so it shall be in that day when they shall see all these things, then shall they know that the hour is nigh.
39 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.
verse 39 “he that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come” Those who reverence the Lord will be looking forward to the second coming—they will want it to come. For them the Lord’s second coming will be deliverance from the wickedness of the fallen world of Babylon. The signs leading up to his coming will only be perceived as such by those who respond to the Spirit of God. Thus, only those who look forward to his coming and are worthy to respond to the promptings of the Spirit will recognize the signs of his coming and understand them for what they are. Again, if the reader wishes to review a rather comprehensive review of this topic, please see the reference above to the three chapters in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3 (see the commentary for verse 24).
40 And they shall see signs and wonders, for they shall be shown forth in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath.
41 And they shall behold blood, and fire, and vapors of smoke.
42 And before the day of the Lord shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood, and the stars fall from heaven.
43 And the remnant shall be gathered unto this place;
verse 43 This verse refers to the remnant of the Jewish people who have been scattered throughout the world. By the time of his second coming, these Jews shall have begun to gather “unto this place,” that is, to the place where Jesus spoke these words to his disciples—in Old Jerusalem.
44 And then they shall look for me, and, behold, I will come; and they shall see me in the clouds of heaven, clothed with power and great glory; with all the holy angels; and he that watches not for me shall be cut off.
verse 44 “then they shall look for me” The antecedent for they is the “remnant” described in verse 43 who fear God and are looking for the coming of their Messiah but do not yet know that their longed-for Messiah is Jesus Christ. The Jews have the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the last days and the coming of the Messiah. They will recognize some of the signs and will be looking for his coming. Then they will see him coming in the clouds of heaven, and the prophecy of Jesus to the Jews in Matthew 26:64 will be fulfilled: “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
45 But before the arm of the Lord shall fall, an angel shall sound his trump, and the saints that have slept shall come forth to meet me in the cloud.
verse 45 “before the arm of the Lord shall fall” Before the judgment of the Lord falls upon the wicked. Before this mighty judgment upon the world, the archangel Michael will sound his trumpet (see D&C 29:13, 26) and the righteous, both living and dead, will be lifted up off of the earth to meet Christ in the air (see also D&C 88:96-98; 133:56; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
46 Wherefore, if ye have slept in peace blessed are you; for as you now behold me and know that I am, even so shall ye come unto me and your souls shall live, and your redemption shall be perfected; and the saints shall come forth from the four quarters of the earth.
verse 46 “if ye have slept in peace blessed are you” Those righteous dead who enjoyed the peaceful rest of paradise between death and resurrection, as opposed to suffering for their sins in hell, will come forth from the four quarters of the earth. They will be resurrected (their “redemption shall be perfected”) and raised up to meet Christ in the air at his coming.
47 Then shall the arm of the Lord fall upon the nations.
verse 47 Once the saints, both living and dead, have been raised up to meet the Lord, the judgment of the Lord will fall upon the earth and the wicked who remain upon it.
This passage, like most others dealing with the last days, leaves ambiguous the fate of those mortals who are worthy of terrestrial glory but not of celestial glory when the Savior comes. Since the millennial earth will possess a terrestrial glory, however, and since the terrestrial are referred to elsewhere as “Christ’s at his coming” (D&C 88:99) and as being resurrected in the first resurrection (see verse 54), though not in the “morning of the first resurrection,” it is possible that the living who are worthy of a terrestrial glory will also be protected at the moment of his coming in glory.
Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
Some members of the Church have an erroneous idea that when the millennium comes all of the people are going to be swept off the earth except righteous members of the Church. That is not so. There will be millions of people—Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, Mohammedans, people of all classes and of all beliefs—still permitted to remain upon the face of the earth, but they will be those who have lived clean lives, those who have been free from wickedness and corruption. All who belong, by virtue of their good lives, to the terrestrial order, as well as those who have kept the celestial law, will remain upon the face of the earth during the millennium (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:86).
48 And then shall the Lord set his foot upon this mount, and it shall cleave in twain, and the earth shall tremble, and reel to and fro, and the heavens also shall shake.
verse 48 “this mount” This phrase refers to the Mount of Olives on which the Savior was sitting when he gave this great discourse. Parley P. Pratt, in a pamphlet published while Joseph smith was still alive, described the great events depicted here:
Zechariah, chapter 14, has told us much concerning the great battle and overthrow of the nations who fight against Jerusalem, and he has said, in plain words, that the Lord shall come at the very time of the overthrow of that army; yet, in fact even while they are in the act of taking Jerusalem, and have already succeeded in taking one-half the city, spoiling their houses and ravishing their women. Then, behold, their long-expected Messiah, suddenly appearing, shall stand upon the Mount of Olives, a little east of Jerusalem, to fight against those nations and deliver the Jews. Zechariah says the Mount of Olives shall cleave in twain, from east to west, and one-half of the mountain shall remove to the north while the other half falls off to the south, suddenly forming a very great valley into which the Jews shall flee for protection from their enemies as they fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah; while the Lord cometh and all the saints with him. Then will the Jews behold that long, long-expected Messiah, coming in power to their deliverance, as they always looked for him. He will destroy their enemies and deliver them from trouble at the very time they are in the utmost consternation, and about to be swallowed up by their enemies. But what will be their astonishment when they are about to fall at the feet of their Deliverer and acknowledge him their Messiah! They discover the wounds which were once made in his hands, feet, and side; and on inquiry, at once recognize Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, the man so long rejected. Well did the prophet say that they shall mourn and weep, every family apart, and their wives apart. But, thank heaven, there will be an end to their mourning; for he will forgive their iniquities and cleanse them from uncleanness. Jerusalem shall be a holy city from that time forth, and all the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon. She shall be lifted up and inhabited in her place, and men shall dwell there. There shall be no more utter destruction of Jerusalem, “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one” (Zechariah 14:9) (Voice of Warning, 32-33).
49 And the Lord shall utter his voice, and all the ends of the earth shall hear it; and the nations of the earth shall mourn, and they that have laughed shall see their folly.
verse 49 This verse hints at the anguish, despair, and self reproach of the wicked just prior to their destruction at the return of the Lord.
50 And calamity shall cover the mocker, and the scorner shall be consumed; and they that have watched for iniquity shall be hewn down and cast into the fire.
verse 50 The wicked will then be consumed by burning, and the earth will be purified by fire to render it a fit habitation for Christ and his saints.
“they that have watched for iniquity” Perhaps this refers to those who keep their eyes open for the opportunity to commit (and materially benefit from) sin, who watch for their chance at wickedness and take it when it comes.
51 And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet?
52 Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God.
53 And then shall they weep because of their iniquities; then shall they lament because they persecuted their king.
verses 51-53 These verses describe the long-awaited collective repentance and conversion of the Jews. This is not repentance for the death of Christ, for these Jews are not guilty of that. Rather, it is the same repentance that all who come to Christ must experience. Though a few individual Jews have joined the Church since its founding in 1830, the mass conversion described in scripture will not take place, nor will the gathering of Israel be completed, until after the coming of the Lord. When the Gentile nations have heard and rejected the gospel and the world is ripe in iniquity, then the times of the Gentiles will be over, the Savior will return, and the Jews will be converted and redeemed. But this great mass conversion will await the personal appearance of Christ to the Jews in Jerusalem.
54 And then shall the heathen nations be redeemed, and they that knew no law shall have part in the first resurrection; and it shall be tolerable for them.
verse 54 “then shall the heathen nations be redeemed” The saints of God, those who will inherit his celestial kingdom, will be resurrected before Christ descends from the heavens to the earth and before the wicked are punished (see verses 45-48). Then after the resurrection of the celestial saints, and after the Savior descends to the Mount of Olives (see verse 48), and after his arm has fallen upon the wicked to destroy them (see verse 47), and after he has conversed with and converted the Jews at Jerusalem (see verses 51-53), then the resurrection of terrestrial—“heathen”—dead will take place (see also D&C 88:99) in what might be called the “afternoon” of the first resurrection. But it is still the first resurrection during which they will be raised and not the second or last resurrection (for the wicked) at the end of the thousand years (see Revelation 20:5-6).
Generally the scriptures divide the world into just two categories—Jews and Gentiles (or heathens). The Bible translates the same words, goyim in Hebrew and ethnikoi in Greek, variously as either “the Gentiles,” “the nations,” or “the heathen.” In this last dispensation, however, it is possible to further divide the Gentile nations into “Christian nations”—those Gentiles nations who have some knowledge of Jesus Christ—and “heathen nations”—those Gentile nations who have no knowledge of Christ (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 346-47). This is the distinction intended here by the use of “the heathen nations” (compare D&C 90:10). These heathen nations, who know nothing of Christ or of his commandments, are also referred to as they who “have sinned without the law” (D&C 76:72), or “the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited . . . who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it” (D&C 76:73-74).
The common denominator for all these descriptions is the idea that as a general rule and because of their ignorance, these peoples may be judged more leniently for their transgressions than either Israel or the so-called Christian nations. Because they didn’t have the Lord’s commandments, the heathen will be less likely to be judged “wicked” than will members of the Church or other Christians who knew and rejected the commandments. Thus, this particular verse holds out much greater hope for the unbaptized heathen than did the majority of Christian churches in 1831, most of whom taught that the unconverted “heathen” burned in hell forever and ever.
It should carefully noted that being a members of a heathen nation does not dictate an inheritance in any particular kingdom of glory. While there may be a general pattern for the majority of those in the heathen nations to inherit terrestrial glory, those in the heathen nations have just as much chance for celestial glory as the Jews or anyone else, and perhaps even more. Each man will be judged on his own merits. The critical considerations, as we have discussed previously, are threefold: (1) what spiritual progress an individual has made prior to coming to earth; (2) the circumstances encountered during mortality; and (3) the amount of spiritual progress or growth the individual makes here on earth (for a more complete discussion of this important concept, see the commentary for 2 Nephi 1:18). There will always be many exceptions to any general pattern or rule. We know, for example, that those individuals who lived and died without even hearing gospel will be judged as if they had heard the gospel and had an opportunity to live it. Those who would have received it and endured in it, had they had the opportunity, will be raised up to the celestial kingdom of God (D&C 137:59). Each man will be perfectly-fairly judged by an all-knowing and loving Savior.
“and it shall be tolerable for them” Once every man has received his final reward, whether it be celestial, terrestrial, or telestial, he will ultimately find it “tolerable.” We can be assured that every man will be comfortable with his final reward. It will be where he belongs—an environment to which he is completely well suited. He will live among those with whom he is comfortable.
55 And Satan shall be bound, that he shall have no place in the hearts of the children of men.
verse 55 “Satan shall be bound” During the thousand years, Satan’s influence will be nullified. See the commentary for D&C 43:31.
56 And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins.
verse 56 Though many people think the Olivet discourse is limited to Matthew 24, a careful reading of Matthew 25 clearly shows that the three parables given there (the parable of the ten virgins, the parable of the talents, and the parable of the sheep and the goats) were part of the same discourse (note especially Matthew 25:1, 31).
verses 57-59 Prior to studying these next three verses, the reader is urged to review the discussion of the parable of the ten virgins in the introductory commentary for section 33.
57 For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.
verse 57 “abide the day” This phrase means to survive that particular day, the day of destruction at Christ’s second coming.
58 And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong, and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation.
verse 58 “the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance” This phrase might refer to one of two things. First, it may suggest that the “wise virgins” represent both the celestial and terrestrial people who will not be hewn down at the Lord’s second coming and will inherit the millennial earth as a place of abode. Secondly, it may refer to the wise virgins as those celestial beings whose ultimate inheritance will be the celestialized earth.
59 For the Lord shall be in their midst, and his glory shall be upon them, and he will be their king and their lawgiver.
verse 59 The Lord ends his citation of the Olivet discourse after this verse, and he begins speaking to Joseph Smith in the following verse.
verses 60-75 The Lord gives counsel to our own dispensation through the Prophet Joseph. The description of the latter-day Zion in verses 66 through 71 makes it sound much like the Zion of Enoch.
60 And now, behold, I say unto you, it shall not be given unto you to know any further concerning this chapter, until the New Testament be translated, and in it all these things shall be made known;
verse 60 Until March 7, 1831, the date of Joseph’s receiving section 45, Joseph and Sidney had worked on the JST for the book of Genesis only. Here in verses 60-61 the Lord invites them to begin work on the New Testament. The translation of Joseph Smith–Matthew (Matthew 23:39 through Matthew 24) began the next day, March 8, 1831 which indicates the importance the Prophet Joseph placed upon the work. See the supplemental article, Joseph Smith’s Inspired Revision of the Bible.
“this chapter” This phrase likely refers to Matthew 24 which, of course is now found in the Pearl of Great Price as JS-M.
“in it all these things shall be made known” The antecedent of it is the JST of the New Testament, especially Joseph’s translation of Matthew 24. This particular chapter, Joseph Smith–Matthew, does indeed reveal details of Christ’s prophecies to his disciples about the second coming, details that were lost between the first century and 1831. The information found there was intended specifically for the saints of the latter days in order to prepare them for what was coming.
61 Wherefore I give unto you that ye may now translate it, that ye may be prepared for the things to come.
62 For verily I say unto you, that great things await you;
63 Ye hear of wars in foreign lands; but, behold, I say unto you, they are nigh, even at your doors, and not many years hence ye shall hear of wars in your own lands.
verse 63 “ye shall hear of wars in your own lands” This prophecy undoubtedly refers to the Civil War, at this time still thirty years away, and perhaps also to other wars we have not yet experienced (see D&C 38:29-32; 87:1-8).
verses 64-75 The tribulations and judgments that will be poured out upon the world prior to the second coming will be so extensive and devastating that if the Lord did not prepare a means of preservation, his people too would perish. But he has prepared a means for his people to escape those terrible times. That means is Zion, a place of safety, peace, and refuge.
The Prophet Joseph understood this doctrine, for he also taught that Zion was the place of deliverance in the last days:
Without Zion, and a place of deliverance, we must fall, because the time is near when the sun will be darkened, and the moon turn to blood, and the stars fall from heaven, and the earth reel to and fro. Then, if this is the case, and if we are not sanctified and gathered to the places God has appointed, with all our former professions and our great love for the Bible, we must fall. We cannot stand. We cannot be saved, for God will gather out his saints from the Gentiles, and then comes desolation and destruction, and none can escape except the pure in heart who are gathered (TPJS, 71).
64 Wherefore I, the Lord, have said, gather ye out from the eastern lands, assemble ye yourselves together ye elders of my church; go ye forth into the western countries, call upon the inhabitants to repent, and inasmuch as they do repent, build up churches unto me.
verse 64 “western countries” The safety of the saints lay in moving from their eastern homes in New York and Pennsylvania and gathering to the West—Ohio, Missouri, and eventually the Great Basin of Utah. The saints did not actually establish a Zion in Missouri though it will soon be designated as the location of Zion (see D&C 57:1-3). Through following the prophet Brigham Young to the mountains of the West, the saints were spared the desolating slaughter of the Civil War.
65 And with one heart and with one mind, gather up your riches that ye may purchase an inheritance which shall hereafter be appointed unto you.
verse 65 “purchase an inheritance” Here the Lord makes it clear to the saints how they are to acquire lands in “the western countries” to establish Zion. They are to “gather up” their riches and buy the lands.
66 And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God;
verse 66 Zion or the New Jerusalem will be larger than just one city, but the center place will be in Jackson County, Missouri. The Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual explains: “In the scriptures four words seem closely related to the concept of Zion: gathering, preparation, defense, and refuge. The tribulations and judgments that will be poured out upon the world prior to the Lord’s second coming will be so extensive and devastating that if the Lord did not prepare a means of preservation, his people too would perish. But he has prepared a means for his people to escape those terrible times; that means is Zion” (98).
67 And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion.
verse 67 “glory of the Lord . . . terror of the Lord” For the righteous saints, Zion will be glorious, but for its enemies Zion will be terrible. The power of the Lord will terrify all Zion’s enemies so that they will fear to approach her.
verses 68-71 In the period before the coming of the Savior, there will be no peace or security anywhere or with anyone outside of Zion. The rest of the world will become an armed camp, and the whole world will be full of blood and schemes “as it was in the days of Noah” (JS-M 1:41). Those who will neither commit violence nor suffer it must flee to Zion, the only refuge of safety on earth.
68 And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.
69 And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another.
70 And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand.
71 And it shall come to pass that the righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy.
verses 72-75 In church periodicals before 1844, verses 72-75 were not printed with section 45, even though they did appear in the 1833 Book of Commandments and in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. This oddity may have been due to an editorial decision not to reproduce a prohibition that was no longer relevant nor to suggest to the church’s enemies that the saints might be hiding something (see verse 72).
72 And now I say unto you, keep these things from going abroad unto the world until it is expedient in me, that ye may accomplish this work in the eyes of the people, and in the eyes of your enemies, that they may not know your works until ye have accomplished the thing which I have commanded you;
verse 72 “keep these things from going abroad unto the world” It was not yet the right time to publish or preach to the world the things found in this revelation, as they could be misunderstood or distorted and could arouse the anger of the world against the saints more quickly as they tried to establish Zion in Missouri. Those outside of the Church who studied this revelation would realize that they would not be included in Zion, and they may well have regarded the revelation as a threat against them.
73 That when they shall know it, that they may consider these things.
74 For when the Lord shall appear he shall be terrible unto them, that fear may seize upon them, and they shall stand afar off and tremble.
75 And all nations shall be afraid because of the terror of the Lord, and the power of his might. Even so. Amen.
- Michael J. Preece