I’ve been asked to compile a guide for those wanting to make sense of latter-day prophecy. I have a unique perspective on this subject. So to introduce this guide, I’ll share part of my childhood story.
When I was in 3rd grade, I had an identity crisis. Because of my grades and academic awards I considered myself to be the smartest in my class in kindergarten and first grade. But in 2nd grade, I ran up against girl who outperformed me in literally everything we did. I realized that there are some people out there who, for one reason or another, have things come extremely naturally for them, and I realized I wouldn’t always be the smartest or fastest or strongest or most attractive. I didn’t know who I was anymore. What would make me unique? In 3rd grade, I had to find a niche that would make me different.
It was about that time I started reading the books on my dads shelves and at friends houses that dealt with church doctrine within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I developed a fascination with doctrine and anything that has been said about the future. Scriptures, prophesies, and visions of the last days became my obsession. I read every book I could find on the subject. Unfortunately, many of these books were filled with the philosophies of men mingled with scripture and portrayed a very apocalyptic view of the future.
Before I turned 10, my mind was already consumed by a fear of the future. I became a "prepper" fanatic and was convinced I wouldn’t have a "normal" life. I didn’t bother to learn what GPA meant or what it was good for until about my senior year, because it didn’t matter to me. I literally didn’t think colleges would exist by the time I returned from my mission. The way I conducted my life from ages 8-18 was based on the assumption that there would be a total economic collapse, that EMPs would obliterate all technology in America, that our Constitution would hang by a thread and we would eventually politically collapse, and that I would spend the rest of my pre-millennial life living in tent cities in the mountains as the United Nations attempts to control the absolute anarchy and civil war raging in the streets.
If you think I’m exaggerating, I can refer you to my 3rd grade and 9th grade crushes who witnessed my fearful fanaticism as clearly as anybody I knew.
Thankfully, on November 10, 2010, I attended a fireside that forever changed my life and saved me from the fear that was causing me to virtually give up on life. The fireside was given by a man with a masters degree in LDS Doctrine and Church History and he spoke on prophecies related to the second coming, the ushering in of the millennium, the destiny of the US Constitution, what God expects of this rising generation. His entire presentation contradicted everything I thought I knew on the subject. At first, I was slightly defensive. I thought, "I don’t know what books you’re reading, because EVERYTHING I have ever read said that the Constitution fall, America would be destroyed, and we would need to fight for our lives and ‘endure to the end’ until Christ returns to save us from total self-destruction and heals our government."
It was the most faith-promoting message I had ever consumed on this subject. I was incredibly motivated, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks afterwards. I was filled with excitement and confidence, instead of fear. It was as though I had literally experienced John 8:32; "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
To be honest, it took me several months to reconcile everything I had learned for the previous decade with this new paradigm. I resisted it for a while, but in recent years it has all come together beautifully. I’ve finally embraced the prophetic statements given by generations worth of seers and cast off mistaken interpretations by well-meaning members of the Church.
Now, to my guide. These are the resources and tips I highly recommend studying and applying as you learn to see prophecy with new eyes. If your life has been anything like mine, this might be the best study of your life.
It’s not difficult to find lists of scriptures dealing with the last days. So instead of only providing a list of things to read, I’ll focus on advising how to prepare your mind for your study.
Absolute vs Conditional Prophesy
Remember that not all prophesy is going to happen. Sometimes a prophecy is "absolute" in the sense that it is going to happen exactly the way the scriptures say it will and there’s nothing we can do to change that. Christ will return and He will save the Jews from the battle of Armageddon. That’s absolutely going to happen in the way the scriptures say it will happen.
However, sometimes the purpose of prophesy or visions is to scare us into changing our behavior so that the prophecy WON’T happen. Consider the story of Jonah and Nineveh. Jonah was told to preach to Nineveh that it would be destroyed. He did, they repented, and they weren’t destroyed. Some of us call this the Jonah Principle (click to read more). Sometimes conditional prophecy is going to happen, but our behavior can influence the degree, magnitude, intensity, duration, or geographic range of its fulfillment. Other times conditional prophecy wont happen at all, for better or for worse. Only by using ALL of the teachings of the *Prophets, Seers, and Revelators* can we build an accurate picture what each prophecy is really saying and which is absolute vs conditional.
Ezra Taft Benson said:
But many of the prophecies referring to America’s preservation are conditional. That is, if we do our duty we can be preserved, and if not then we shall be destroyed. This means that a good deal of the responsibility lies with the priesthood of this Church as to what happens to America and as to how much tragedy can be avoided if we do act now.
Constitution Hanging By a Thread
Many use the "hanging by a thread" statements attributed to Joseph Smith to say that the Constitution will collapse. Click here and here to read the background story and clarifications on those "hanging by a thread" statements, and how Joseph actually prophesied of the restoration of the Constitution.
John Taylor Vision
President John Taylor had a pretty apocalyptic vision of the future. However, from what I’ve been taught, he didn’t receive the full vision. While receiving this vision, a church bell rang in the distance and he wondered what time it was. The spirit was offended and closed the vision. He apologetically delivered what he had received to the brethren but stated that there was more that he didn’t receive.
Charles D. Evans Vision
The Charles D. Evans visions have been described by some of the brethren as the "rest of the story" that John Taylor missed. Remember that patriarchs used to be sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators, so their visions hold special weight to us above the visions of regular members of the church.
His first vision describes the restoration of the US Constitution and the subsequent explosion of missionary work that results from restored religious freedoms. This vision has been promoted by President Benson and other prophets as an accurate prophecy of the destiny of the Constitution.
Now, we tend to read visions from past prophets with the idea that everything they’ve seen is going to happen everywhere, all at the same time. So hypothetically, if a vision talks about really bad tornadoes, we might be inclined to think tornadoes are going to happen all the time in every part of the country and it’s all in the future. But I was recently challenged to read John Taylor’s vision with history in mind to see how many of those horrible things have actually already happened. Visions are more scary when we pack tons of horrible events into the span of just a couple years and then exaggerate the size of the geographic regions impacted by each trial.
Temple Dedicatory Prayers
If you want to know what a geographic region may experience in the future, read the temple dedicatory prayers of that land. Gordon B. Hinckley taught that temple prayers change the prophesy of the land. Some of my favorite temple dedicatory prayers are Idaho Falls 1945, Idaho Falls 2017, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Salt Lake City, Utah, Manti, Utah, and Laie Hawaii.
The Millennial Kingdom of God
Click here to learn about how the Constitution will be used as the pattern of millennial theocratic government with Christ as King.
I had tried to reconcile the visions members of the church have had of the future with what the prophets are saying, and in many cases there appears to be direct conflict. Perhaps the vision is truly from God and it’s an example of conditional prophecy. Maybe it’s allegorical. Or maybe, as one brother counseled, it was never from God in the first place. We know that Satan’s and his angels can be incredibly deceptive, even appearing as angels of light. This brother advised me to appreciate inspired visions while understanding that for some people the veil is very thin and they become too comfortable or casual with communication from the spirit world. They may stop confirming in the temple whether a vision was truly given by God. If someone becomes a little casual in filtering their spiritual experiences, then Lucifer can slip in lies or half-truths or over-emphasize minor details to make them dominate our perspectives. That’s why I’m extremely cautious when dealing with the visions of others who aren’t sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators. I have absolutely NO way of knowing how careful they are in receiving and filtering revelation.
Ezra Taft Benson asked W. Cleon Skousen to write a book on prophecy which I highly recommend. It’s called Prophecy and Modern Times. Skousen’s writings were also compiled into a book called The Cleansing of America which is a great read. However, Skousen didn’t want that material to be treated like America = the United States. He had taught that America referred to Zion as interpreted by Joseph Smith as North and South America. So according to his daughter and son-in-law, the book should have been called "The Cleansing of [North and South] America".
Skousen also wrote a book called Isaiah Speaks to Modern Times which I would recommend. Glenn Kimber has published America in History and Prophecy and The Middle East in History and Prophecy which I would also recommend.