When COVID-19 hit and countries began implementing quarantines, conversations quickly turned to the last days before the Second Coming of the Savior. Indeed, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes mistakenly called Mormons or the Mormon Church) find signs of the last days everywhere. Was this the beginning of the end or just another media frenzy that would pass? I thought that COVID-19 was a warning shot and there would be more events to follow. Not the beginning of the end but not just a blip, either. An escalation of the chaos of the world. As Elder Neil L. Andersen said,
… The world will not glide calmly toward the Second Coming of the Savior. The scriptures declare that “all things shall be in commotion.” Brigham Young said, “It was revealed to me in the commencement of this Church, that the Church would spread, prosper, grow and extend, and that in proportion to the spread of the Gospel among the nations of the earth, so would the power of Satan rise.”
And we are seeing that today. The ancient Apostle Paul taught,
… In the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, … false accusers, … despisers of those that are good, … highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
But the signs of the last days fit into a bigger picture that, if not understood correctly, can be misleading and terrifying. The summer of COVID spiraled out of control in a way that is scary but not really surprising if we look at the signs of the times. Let me explain.
COVID, Rioting and Spiritual Symptoms of the Last Days
The Savior taught His disciples signs to look for before His Second Coming. Christ said,
Many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars…. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
All these are the beginning of sorrows (Matthew 24:5-8).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said,
Prophecies regarding the last days often refer to large-scale calamities such as earthquakes or famines or floods. These in turn may be linked to widespread economic or political upheavals of one kind or another.
COVID would fit into the category of a large-scale calamity that can easily be linked to widespread upheavals and misinformation. While we often think of the last days in terms of natural disasters and wars, the pandemic is highlighting the spiritual afflictions that were also prophesied. Elder Holland continued,
… There is one kind of latter-day destruction that has always sounded to me more personal than public, more individual than collective—a warning, perhaps more applicable inside the Church than outside it. The Savior warned that in the last days even those of the covenant, the very elect, could be deceived by the enemy of truth. If we think of this as a form of spiritual destruction, it may cast light on another latter-day prophecy. Think of the heart as the figurative center of our faith, the poetic location of our loyalties and our values; then consider Jesus’s declaration that in the last days “men’s hearts [shall fail] them.”
COVID began a summer of uncertainty, and in this climate, it’s not surprising that protesting turned to rioting and looting. And why? Because people’s hearts were failing them.
When Hearts Fail
I know this sounds simplistic. But in the larger picture, it begins to make sense. John the Revelator spoke of a war in heaven in which Michael the archangel and his followers beat the dragon, who is Satan, and those who followed him. Satan and his followers—one-third of the host of heaven—were cast out. (See Revelations 12:7-9.) Of this conflict, Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained,
What kind of war? The same kind that prevails on earth; the only kind Satan and spirit beings can wage—a war of words, a tumult of opinions, a conflict of ideologies; a war between truth and error, between light and darkness. … And the battle lines are still drawn. It is now on earth as it was then in heaven; every man must choose which general he will follow (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:518).
This battle of good against evil continues today. President Russell M. Nelson taught,
The Book of Mormon chronicles the classic rise and fall of two major civilizations. Their history demonstrates how easy it is for a majority of the people to forget God, reject warnings of the Lord’s prophets, and seek power, popularity, and pleasures of the flesh. Repeatedly, past prophets have declared “great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe.”
It is no different in our day. Through the years, great and marvelous things have been heard from dedicated pulpits across the earth. Yet most people do not embrace these truths—either because they do not know where to look for them or because they are listening to those who do not have the whole truth or because they have rejected truth in favor of worldly pursuits.
The adversary is clever. For millennia he has been making good look evil and evil look good.
When Evil Looks Good
Satan is a master at disguising good as evil and evil as good. And it is becoming increasingly difficult to decipher between the two. President Dallin H. Oaks taught,
Evil that used to be localized and covered like a boil is now legalized and paraded like a banner. The most fundamental roots and bulwarks of civilization are questioned or attacked. Nations disavow their religious heritage. Marriage and family responsibilities are discarded as impediments to personal indulgence. The movies and magazines and television that shape our attitudes are filled with stories or images that portray the children of God as predatory beasts or, at best, as trivial creations pursuing little more than personal pleasure. And too many of us accept this as entertainment.
The men and women who made epic sacrifices to combat evil regimes in the past were shaped by values that are disappearing from our public teaching. The good, the true, and the beautiful are being replaced by the no-good, the “whatever,” and the valueless fodder of personal whim. Not surprisingly, many of our youth and adults are caught up in pornography, pagan piercing of body parts, self-serving pleasure pursuits, dishonest behavior, revealing attire, foul language, and degrading sexual indulgence.
Adding to the confusion is that many people are turning away from God or becoming casual in their observance of His teachings. Their hearts are growing cold. President Oaks continued,
… Many in positions of power and influence deny the right and wrong defined by divine decree. Even among those who profess to believe in right and wrong, there are “them that call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20; 2 Nephi 15:20). Many also deny individual responsibility and practice dependence on others, seeking, like the foolish virgins, to live on borrowed substance and borrowed light.
Where to Turn
While many of the prophecies concerning the last days seem to focus on the bad things that will happen, there really is a good side to this. As the Prophet Brigham Young said, the bad things are escalating in proportion to the good. Elder Ronald L. Rasband said,
The devoted Apostle Peter described “times of restitution of all things … since the world began.” The Apostle Paul wrote that in the fulness of times, God would “gather … in one all things in Christ,” “Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.”
We just need to know where to look. President Nelson taught,
[The adversary’s] messages tend to be loud, bold, and boastful.
However, messages from our Heavenly Father are strikingly different. He communicates simply, quietly, and with such stunning plainness that we cannot misunderstand Him.
For example, whenever He has introduced His Only Begotten Son to mortals upon the earth, He has done so with remarkably few words. On the Mount of Transfiguration to Peter, James, and John, God said, “This is my beloved Son: hear him.” His words to the Nephites in ancient Bountiful were “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.” And to Joseph Smith, in that profound declaration that opened this dispensation, God simply said, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
It is in hearing Him and learning of His teachings that we find safety. Elder Holland said,
… Our Father in Heaven knows all of these latter-day dangers, these troubles of the heart and soul, and has given counsel and protections regarding them.
We find His counsel and protections in the prophecies concerning the last days as well.
Good News in the Last Days
The Savior taught that His gospel would be preached “in all the world for a witness unto all nations” (Matthew 24:14) before He came again. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ believe the fulfillment of this prophecy began in the spring of 1820 when a 14-year-old boy named Joseph Smith knelt in a grove of trees and prayed, asking to know which church he should join. In answer to his humble prayer, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph and told him not to join any existing church. That through him, the true gospel of Jesus Christ would be restored to the earth. President Oaks taught,
A revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1831, soon after the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke of those who had been given “power to lay the foundation of this church.” The Lord then referred to the Church as “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased” (Doctrine & Covenants 1:30). …
Three features—(1) fulness of doctrine, (2) power of the priesthood, and (3) testimony of Jesus Christ—explain why God has declared and why we as His servants maintain that this is the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth.
The organization of Christ’s Church in the latter days was the beginning of the restitution of all things, where all things were gathered in one. Through Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ restored His church, doctrine, and teachings to the earth. Elder D. Todd Christofferson said,
The ancient purpose remains: that is, to preach the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ and administer the ordinances of salvation—in other words, to bring people to Christ.
Ensign to the Nations
The Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ led to the fulfillment of other latter-day prophecies. The ancient prophet Isaiah prophesied,
… In the last days … the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the tops of the mountains … and all nations shall flow unto it (Isaiah 2:2).
Of this scripture, President Gordon B. Hinckley taught,
I believe and testify that it is the mission of this Church to stand as an ensign to the nations and a light to the world. We have had placed upon us a great, all-encompassing mandate from which we cannot shrink nor turn aside. We accept that mandate and are determined to fulfill it, and with the help of God we shall do it.
The ancient prophet Daniel spoke of a “stone cut out without hands” that “became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” (See Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45.) Modern scriptures teach,
… The gospel [shall] roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountains without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth (Doctrine & Covenants 65:2).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in 1830 with six members in a little village in New York. Today the Church has more than 16 million members throughout the world. It is, as prophesied, filling the earth. The light of the gospel is filling the earth and dispelling the darkness, which, sadly, is growing ever intense.
When Calamities Strike
The gospel of Jesus Christ is filling the earth with light and knowledge to fight the darkness. So that when COVID hits and mass rioting and looting begins, we know where to look for peace. President Nelson taught,
We simply cannot rely upon information we bump into on social media. With billions of words online and in a marketing-saturated world constantly infiltrated by noisy, nefarious efforts of the adversary, where can we go to hear Him?
We find Him as we search the scriptures, as we participate in ordinances in the holy temple and as we listen to the words of the prophet. President Nelson continued,
We can go to the scriptures. They teach us about Jesus Christ and His gospel, the magnitude of His Atonement, and our Father’s great plan of happiness and redemption. Daily immersion in the word of God is crucial for spiritual survival, especially in these days of increasing upheaval. As we feast on the words of Christ daily, the words of Christ will tell us how to respond to difficulties we never thought we would face.
We can also hear Him in the temple. The house of the Lord is a house of learning. There the Lord teaches in His own way. There each ordinance teaches about the Savior. There we learn how to part the veil and communicate more clearly with heaven.
As we seek Him, we will be prepared to face the calamities that will come. President Nelson taught,
Our Father knows that when we are surrounded by uncertainty and fear, what will help us the very most is to hear His Son.
Because when we seek to hear—truly hear—His Son, we will be guided to know what to do in any circumstance.