I kind of think that this is what just about every passing generation says to the up and coming one, as a sort of a carrot that is dangled in front of them (or reminder that the stick of God's judgment is very real), and as a reminder about the need to do good, because, after all, the 2nd coming is near! It is ALWAYS near for crying out loud! It has been near since the time of Jesus himself. John, one of the original 12 apostles said in the book of Revelations Chapter 22, verses 12 & 22, "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." and "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
LDS living is emphasizing a talk by Dallin H. Oaks that is nice enough to point out that a lot of stuff has to happen before the 2nd coming occurs. It also seems to be a reminder that the church leadership has recently reminded all of us that nobody knows when the 2nd coming will happen. However, in the video that was put together and posted by LDS church news they close with a quote by Joseph Smith reminding everyone that anyone who claims to know the day of the second coming of Jesus is a false teacher. This quote was not found in Dallin H. Oaks original talk (given in the April 2004 General Conference) but seems to have been added for dramatic effect and to shut up anyone from implying that the church may have taught a specific date for the second coming to occur.
However, the interesting thing is Joseph Smith appeared to be pretty preoccupied with this very question. In D&C 130, verses 14-17 Joseph says, "...I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following:
15 Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter.
16 I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face.
17 I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time."
This has always been one of those scriptures that I have wondered about. Why, if this is not an attempt to offer some sort of prediction on the matter (after all, it IS the voice of God we assume is the voice of which he is speaking) is it even included in the scriptural canon? Why not just say, "Quit asking! I'm not telling anyone, not even you Joseph!" Instead we get this weird reference to Joseph's age and weird interpretation of what it must have meant. Technically, however, Joseph Smith is attempting to say that Jesus' second coming will not occur prior to him turning 85. Based on the last verse here, Joseph is attempting to tell us it will not occur prior to that time which is, technically, an attempt to predict when the second coming will occur (or not occur until). My simple question is, doesn't this seem to make Joseph Smith a false teacher? I admit that there are plenty of outs here for Joseph on this point, so it is really not that big a deal. But it was a thought I had when I watched the Dallin H. Oaks video put out by the LDS church news on LDS Living.
When I saw that last quote in the video, I also recalled from church history that Joseph Smith might have made a comment in a general conference on the second coming where he was quoted as saying that 56 years should wind up the scene. However, there is some dispute as to the authenticity of this quote, so it would not be fair to attempt to hold this up as a prophecy by Joseph Smith.
In addition, all of this talk about predictions and prophesy does tend to lead to the all important question; When is a prophet speaking as a man and when is he speaking as a prophet? This is a question I have yet to find a sufficient answer to. It seems as though the only time a prophet's words can be relied upon are if it is the CURRENT prophet of the day and ONLY if he speaks the prophecy in an official capacity and ONLY if he precedes it by some variation of "thus saith the Lord" AND if the spirit witnesses to the hearer that the prophecy is true. All these conditions come off to me sounding like excuses, really. It seems like the circumstances have to be just right and the stars all have to align for the prophet to actually make a prophecy. And, if he happens to utter something that might possibly be construed as a prophecy, and it happens to come true, he was thus speaking as a prophet. However, if he is unfortunately incorrect about something...well, then he was just speaking as a man, or it wasn't official or we all interpreted it wrong.
The fascinating thing that goes along with these ideas is that the current leaders of the LDS church say surprisingly little that could actually be construed as any sort of prophecy to begin with. It's not like in the bible where the Lord tells Lot that he is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and then does it. Or even the Book of Mormon where God tells Lehi that Jerusalem will be destroyed and it actually came to pass. I guess the days of specific prophecies like those are done and gone. After all, we have had a seeming surge in natural disasters in the last few years and yet the prophets have failed to warn us specifically about any of them! Where are the prophets that serve to warn us and help us to avoid destruction? Are we just all wicked and not worth saving in those places where the natural disasters occur. Are the people in Joplin Missouri, not righteous enough to have merited a little heads up? I guess God just doesn't love us as much as he loved people in the scriptures.
Oh well, maybe God is just on some sort of vacation and just can't be bothered to tell us anything helpful right now. I really wish he would just return already though, because I think people have had this idea that He would return sometime in their lifetimes for eons now. It would sure be nice if one generation finally got it right for a change.
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