Gospel Principles 43: Signs of the Second Coming
Today’s Relief Society lesson comes from Erin, today’s guest for The Exponent and Doves & Serpents Blog Swap.
Thinking about this week’s lesson – Chapter 43: Signs of the Second Coming – gave me flashbacks to some of the second coming lessons I have heard over the years. With very few exceptions, they were scary and doomsday-esque in flavor! For some people, keeping track of the signs of the times is a favorite gospel hobby. In fact, for some people, being able to recognize the signs gives them hope. However, I am guessing that an equal number of people start to feel a little anxious when the talk turns to earthquakes in divers places! So any teacher of this lesson should probably be sensitive and should seek balance between messages of hope and hell.
The lesson begins with the question, “What are some of the signs of the Second Coming?” and recommends dividing the class into small groups to study and discuss the various signs, as well as “evidence they have seen that the signs are being fulfilled today. Then have them share their insights with each other.” On the surface, this sounds like a description of any other small group discussion prompt, but in light of people’s strong attractions to or aversions from this topic, such small groups would need to be organized thoughtfully. As well, I would want to steer clear from the kind of pessimistic list-making of “great trials and calamities” that some people would eagerly embrace. When I teach, I prefer discussions that uplift and motivate, but that’s probably because that’s what I want when I’m NOT teaching.
The lesson manual begins with a number of statements and accompanying verses, but close discussion of all of the verses and points listed will eat up the entire lesson block, so perhaps a well-paced skimming is in order: For thousands of years, followers of Jesus Christ have looked forward to the Second Coming as a time of peace and joy.
If we are obedient and faithful, we will study the scriptures and know of the signs.
Some of the signs foretelling the Second Coming of Jesus Christ have already been or are now being fulfilled. Others will be fulfilled in the future.
People might now be sweating a little, feeling little twitches of anxiety. Indeed, the manual notes that, “Many of the signs are terrifying and dreadful…. Many of these signs are being fulfilled. Wickedness is everywhere. Nations are constantly at war. Earthquakes and other calamities are occurring. Many people now suffer from devastating storms, drought, hunger, and diseases. We can be certain that these calamities will become more severe before the Lord comes.”
The Restoration of the Gospel
The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon
The Gospel Preached to All the World
The Coming of Elijah
Lehi’s Descendants Will Become a Great People
Building of the New JerusalemI would be interested to know other joyful “signs” that class members have noticed – signs of progress and development, for example. The internet, maybe? It’s certainly brought great joy to my life! Perhaps there are other events in the modern age that we can be grateful for. It would be refreshing to have a non-gloomy discussion of the 21st century world.
Doctrine & Covenants 45: 35 – The Lord said, “Be not troubled, for, when all these things [the signs] shall come to pass, ye may know that the promises which have been made unto you shall be fulfilled.”
The lesson manual recommends a long list of additional scriptures for in-class reading, and I’m all for reading them, or at least some of them. Sometimes reading actual verses and actual words of ancient prophets can bring more clarity than mere speculation by provident living disaster junkies. However, no one really loves a lesson that consists of nothing more than people reading quotes printed out on slips of paper while everybody else follows along in the book. There’s so much potential for actual discussion, it would be a shame to waste that potential with rote reading.
As the lesson points out, followers of Jesus Christ have been looking forward to his return for thousands of years. In fact, the disciples were talking about it immediately after the resurrection. Paul mentions these signs in his epistles. Christian history and writings are filled with mentions of Jesus’ return, with many generations and congregations hopeful that they would be the chosen group! Our church is not unique in the belief that the Second Coming is near. A discussion of the history of beliefs about the Second Coming might be interesting to class members and might help to diffuse the fear that sometimes attends the topic. (Even a cursory googling of the Shakers and Christian Scientists will provide some interesting information.) It’s also somehow heartening, at least to me, to realize that we are not the only ones who worry about the changes in the world around us, who sometimes think it’s all going to hell in a handbasket, and I’m heartened by the realization that life has continued for thousands of years, even when people thought it couldn’t get any worse. Latter-day Saints at the end of the 19th century were convinced Jesus would be returning before the next century. And then one hundred years later, people worried and hoped that Y2K might usher in the Second Coming at long last. But here we are, still studying. So even as we watch the skies for the signs, we should have our feet planted firmly on gospel sod, remaining anxiously engaged in the good causes that are important to us, our families and our communities.
Note: This lesson was originally written for the Relief Society audience in 2010-2011, when the Gospel Principles manual was temporarily used as curriculum for Relief Society, Elders Quorum and High Priest classes. The lesson may require adaptation for Gospel Principles classes, which are mixed gender and primarily serve new members and investigators of the church.