Sunday, May 23, 2010

The End of the World As We Know It

I am routinely disappointed when I hear predictions of the end of the world as we know it.  There has been much fodder for such conversations in recent months and years, I know.

But I have now grown to be an old man.  Not really, really old like my father who is 88 years old, but old when compared to my growing posterity of children and grandchildren.  I say it with some sense of self-awareness, and also with some sense of the ground I have covered to get here.  This week our oldest granddaughter will be married in the Salt Lake Temple.  My father will officiate at the sealing. 

The thought of becoming a great-grandfather is slowly settling in upon my heart.  So with this entry I summarize my observations for the newlyweds soon to be, and all the rest of you may look inside too.

There are still people today (I know this will come as a big surprise to those of you who are hearing it for the first time), who point to the wickedness of the world, the financial meltdown and its aftermath of recent months and years, and conditions in society generally -- and with a loud voice of certitude are proclaiming the end of the world is near.

Someday, the voices of doom and gloom will prove to be correct.  I have no doubt of it because it has been written about and prophesied by the mouths of all the holy prophets since the dawn of Adam and Eve's first furtive steps away from the garden of Eden.

However, it will not be a calendar from the Mayan culture that will prove to be accurate.  It will not be the calendar imbedded in the pyramids of Egypt, or the number of rings on the trees in the Aztec rain forests of South America, or whatever marker yet to emerge that we know nothing about. 

Rather, the living prophets of the living God will prove to be more reliable, as they have always been.

I believe what the world needs today is not more voices preaching doom and gloom -- there are plenty of those and the chorus seems to be swelling in volume. 

I do not believe Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, and certainly not the Promised Messiah.

What the world needs desperately today is perspective. 

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are uniquely qualified to deliver to our friends and neighbors the certitude of knowing what we know.  We know exactly how this is all going to end.  In two words:  WE WIN.

The hosts of Satan will one day be silenced.  Wars will no longer rage among the children of men.  Disease and sickness will be abated.  The earth and all its inhabitants will rest for 1,000 years, and all will be cleansed, purified and sanctified.  Christ will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.

A theocratic government will be introduced, and all nations, dictators, liars, cheats and theives will be twarted in their evil designs.  (See Revelation 19).  "For true and righteous are his judgments; for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his saints at her hand."  (JST Revelation 19:2).

There are those today who are predicting the end will come on Joseph Smith's birthday +/- a couple of days, 2012.  A popular movie promotes the idea.  I just watched it last night, and honestly, it was the dumbest plot line for a disaster movie I've ever seen.  I was "stupider" after investing 2 1/2 hours in it.  Proponents of that idea, however, find ample evidence to suggest the Mayans could be right after all.

But as members of the Church we offer a calm and calculated perspective based upon the counsel and guidance of prophets living among us.

President Harold B. Lee did not preside over the Church as president longer than eighteen months.  At a priesthood meeting in April 1973, he introduced three former prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.  Each held the priesthood and was a faithful member of the Church.  Doom and gloom permeated that era, but in their release and their subsequent faithfulness, President Lee helped to put it all in perspective during his remarks on that occasion.

"We have here Captain Larry J. Chesley, Major Jay C. Hess, and Lieutenant Commander David J. Rollins. Will you stand up, please? Captain Chesley, United States Air Force, was a prisoner of war for seven years. He comes from the Burley Stake, Star Ward. Major Jay Hess, United States Air Force, was a prisoner of war for six years, from Bountiful East Stake. Lieutenant Commander Rollins, United States Navy, a prisoner of war for six years, is from the San Diego North Stake. . ."

He then developed a theme around his introduction of them to the assembled body of priesthood brethren:

"I have a letter from some man who seemingly has found something in the hieroglyphics of some discovery that is the answer to a lot of the things that lay ahead for the world. And interestingly enough, as I looked at this, my mind reflected back to an address I heard delivered from this pulpit by President Anthony W. Ivins on October 4, 1931. Just why I thought of that — I suppose it was intended that I should — is because he gave an address at that conference and used as his text the recently published book called Our Bible in Stone. Many of you remember this treated principally the erection, the symbolism, and the prophetic character of the pyramid of Gizeh, or in Greek, the Cheops. Students of the pyramid, after a study of the measurements, symbols, and the record of the pyramid, if it had a record, said that the year 1928 would witness the beginning of a period of great tribulation, which would culminate with intensity in 1936. That period, according to the reckoning of the students, would close with the advent of the Lord and the establishment of a period of peace, happiness, and goodwill among men.

"Then President Ivins gave these wise words of counsel with reference to this book: 'Now, my brethren … I have referred to this little book and its contents as I desire that you might understand. It will undoubtedly go into the mission field and our elders may make use of it. I simply want to warn you against sensationalism of any kind. … I do not say that his conclusions are wrong, but I do say that they do not come to us as the voice of the Church, nor are they to be accepted as such.'

"Then he said something that seems very significant to me. He said: 'Brother J. Golden Kimball told us yesterday that he was a great believer in dreams that come true.' I wish you would think of that. That accords with my feelings. I am a great believer in dreams that have come true.

“'I am reminded of the fact,' he said, 'that immediately after the close of the World War these students of the Pyramids announced and published it that according to their measurements and calculations there would begin in the year 1928 a period which would bring tribulation and sorrow to the people of the world; that they would be required to humble themselves before the Lord, and that that period of tribulation would continue until the year 1936. … We all know that a part of this dream at least has come true.'

"After commenting on the financial condition throughout the nations at that time, in the 1930s, President Ivins then concluded his remarks with these profound words of wisdom: 'Well, now, my brethren and sisters, what about it all? Just be calm and turn to the Lord. … I pleaded with the people to put their houses in order and get out of debt, for I knew this was coming, because God himself through his Only Begotten Son had declared it.

“'Now, my brethren and sisters, if the Church has anything to say to you it will come from them direct and not from the writings of other men. It will come to you in a manner that you will understand it. It will not be speculative. It will come to you philosophically, truthfully, and governed by common sense. God bless you,' he said, 'is my humble prayer. …' (Conference Report, October 1931, 87–94.)

"Now this is something that needs repeating to this great body of priesthood, because we have a rash of writings by certain persons who claim to be of good standing in the Church, going into considerable detail as they recite their past and present Church affiliations and activities in the foreword, interlude, and advertising. There are sensational predictions and observations, and to make their writings appear to have Church sanction, they use quotations and addresses from Church leaders, past and present, taken out of context in such a way as to make it appear as though these quotations were the endorsement of the book they wish to sell to Church members, who may thereby be induced to accept their writings as from unquestioned sources.

"Now we have also had some who claim to be in good standing in order to take advantage of the gathering of the Saints at some of our general conferences, and who have gone so far as to program group meetings for their own interest, with the obvious hope that by doing so, many of our conference visitors may be urged to attend their meetings, even if it may have necessitated their absence from vitally important instructional sessions of the conference.

"Furthermore, some designing individuals have solicited opportunities to speak at church gatherings, firesides, priesthood quorums, sacrament meetings. Now, brethren, we feel it is of the utmost importance to lift a warning voice so that our people will be safeguarded against such tactics as an all too obvious self-seeking opportunity to spread their own propaganda for their own interests.

"We must urge that priesthood leaders use careful discretion in screening out those whose motives may be subject to serious questions."  (President Harold B. Lee, “Follow the Leadership of the Church,” Ensign, July 1973, 95).

There are at least two take-aways from that talk:  1) Conditions haven't changed much since the Great Depression days of which President Ivins spoke, and 2) there have been ample prophetic warnings ever since to put our houses in order, and not much more can be said that hasn't already been said.

Rather than give heed to dire warnings of imminent collapse, let us be up and doing the best we can to be positive and to move forward with hope as we build Zion in the midst of a gathering darkness around us. 

The political pendulum (in case you hadn't noticed) is swinging wildly from right to left, and lurching back to the right again these days.  When you live long enough, you have witnessed these swings before. 

The genius of the "intelligent design" embedded in the Constitution is such that despite all the futile attempts of men to change it, the Constitution has always withstood the assaults against it and it will yet prove to be a shining beacon to the rest of the world -- a standard for freedom in preparation for the Lord's coming.

Being the shining city on the hill that could not be hid is what we must be all about.  (See Matthew 5:14).  It was Ronald Reagan who frequently cited that verse of scripture, and likened it to America. 

I doubt he realized the full implications of his hopes for the future when he uttered those words.

But after his death, I like to think he may have been in a Sunday School class taught by Enoch in the spirit world, who told him all about it.

There was a very obscure news story appearing in the Deseret Morning News last week about President Thomas S. Monson, who was in Provo, Utah, to dedicate the newest addition to the fleet of Zions Banks across the many states in which the bank has established its footprint. 

The story reported:

"In addition to offering a dedicatory prayer, President Monson told those in attendance about some of his boyhood experiences in Utah County and also reaffirmed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' confidence in the bank.

"'You can rest assured that this church doesn't put its investments and its confidence in anything that isn't stable, honorable and (having) a record of performance and integrity,' he said."

That simple declaration of fact and faith simultaneously must have struck a blow in the hearts of doomsday prophets everywhere.  While it doesn't rise to the level of an unqualified endorsement of Zions Bank, certainly, it signaled (in my mind at least) a degree of confidence in the future that we see lacking nearly everywhere else.

The prophet's statement comes on the heels of several consecutive quarters of staggering losses for Zions Bank that are well-documented.

So, doomsdayers take heart -- the fate of the world amidst the uncertainty of the times in which we live is still in God's hands.  It would appear the perspective of his living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, is a healthy positive outlook in a sea of negativity. 

The revitalization of downtown Salt Lake City -- the massive investment of time and energy it represents -- should signal nothing but hope for the future to members of the Church.

I have always loved the words of noted poet Robert Frost:  "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life — It goes on."

All the prophets it has been my good fortune to know and love were the same -- all optimists, not a pessimist among them!

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