I became interested in the Second Coming during youth Sunday School. I’m not sure if the teacher was exceptional or merely my imagination, but I started watching the clouds for Jesus. Literally. Every cloudburst inspired wonder and fear. Apocalyptic worries were never far from my mind. For years, my showers and bowel movements were plagued by the phrase, “like a thief in the night.” (I really didn’t want to be caught naked or soiled in the moment of return!)
My understanding of millennial reign and the last days events has matured slightly, but on a scale of one to ten, I’m still an eleven for irrational and Biblically-inspired anxieties.
For instance, on the day of the earthquake (which, by the way, shook our spirits more vigorously than it shook the cupboards), I inventoried our “72 hour kits” for the first time ever. They aren’t really kits at all, just 15-year old MREs and cool emergency supplies that my parents have gifted us over the years. They all live together in a pile in the closet.
So I pulled out the ancient MREs, made piles, made lists, contemplated opening the old MREs and chickened out, all the while stewing with guilt. Why? Because I’ve heard the parable of the ten virgins a BILLION times, with multiple interpretations, all pointing a strong finger at the unprepared. And I was raised on canned peaches and self-reliance. But here I was, on the DAY of the earthquake, panicking because we only have one blank notebook in the house, and what if I end up like Anne Frank, and there is no paper, and then I can’t write, and if I can’t write I can’t process, and if I can’t process these crazy things then I will surely IMPLODE. And then who will feed my children?????!!!
So. With all of these irrational thoughts in mind, I give you Elder Holland. Poetic to the last. Reminding us that yes, these are the last days. And yes, prophesies of harrowing events will come to pass. And yes, we should be prepared.
But YES, above all, to living as Saints, with faith and love and even a little excitement through all of the turmoil and unexpectedness of this season:
What follows is an abbreviation of Elder Holland’s BYU Speech, Terror, Triumph, and a Wedding Feast (given on September 12, 2004). The complete talk is well worth your time.
The Last Days
Sometime not long after 9-11, I had a missionary ask me in all honesty and full of faith, “Elder Holland, are these the last days?” … What he really meant was, “Will I finish my mission? Is there any point in getting an education? Can I hope for a marriage? Do I have a future? Is there any happiness ahead for me?”
And I say to all of you what I said three years ago to him: “Yes, certainly—to all those questions.”
We should watch for the signs and read the meaning of the seasons, we should live as faithfully as we possibly can, and we should share the gospel with everyone so that blessings and protections will be available to all. But we cannot and must not be paralyzed just because that event and the events surrounding it are out there ahead of us somewhere. We cannot stop living life. Indeed, we should live life more fully than we have ever lived it before. After all, this is the dispensation of the fulness of times.
Facing the Future
I have just two things to say to any of you who are troubled about the future. I say it lovingly and from my heart.
First, we must never, in any age or circumstance, let fear and the father of fear (Satan himself) divert us from our faith and faithful living. There have always been questions about the future. Every young person or every young couple in every era has had to walk by faith into what has always been some uncertainty—starting with Adam and Eve in those first tremulous steps out of the Garden of Eden. But that is all right. This is the plan. It will be okay. Just be faithful. God is in charge. He knows your name and He knows your need.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—that is the first principle of the gospel. We must go forward, as it says in K. Newell Dayley’s hymn commemorating our pioneers of the past, “with faith in ev’ry footstep.” But like those pioneers, you do have to keep taking them—one step and then another and then the next…God expects you to have enough faith and determination and enough trust in Him to keep moving, keep living, keep rejoicing. In fact, He expects you not simply to face the future (that sounds pretty grim and stoic); He expects you to embrace and shape the future—to love it and rejoice in it and delight in your opportunities.
God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can’t if you don’t pray, and He can’t if you don’t dream. In short, He can’t if you don’t believe.
Drawing upon my vast background of children’s bedtime stories, I say you can pick your poultry. You can either be like Chicken Little and run about shouting “The sky is falling; the sky is falling” or you can be like the Little Red Hen and forge ahead with the productive tasks of living, regardless of who does or doesn’t help you or who does or doesn’t believe just the way you believe.
So, in a world of tribulation—and there will always be plenty of it—let’s remember our faith. Let’s recall the other promises and prophecies that have been given, all the reassuring ones, and let’s live life more fully, with more boldness and courage than at any other time in our history.
That leads directly to the other related point I want to make regarding the day in which you and I live. In times of anxiety we tend to focus pretty much (like my young missionary friend did) on the “Latter-day” part of that title.
But tonight I issue a call to each of you to concentrate on the “Saint” portion of that phrase. That is the element in our Church title that should be demanding our attention.
When Christ comes, the members of His Church must look and act like members of His Church are supposed to look and act if we are to be acceptable to Him. We must be doing His work and we must be living His teachings. He must recognize us quickly and easily as truly being His disciples.
Yes, my beloved young friends, these are the latter days, and you and I are to be the best Latter-day Saints we can. Put an emphasis on the last word there, please.
A Sure Foundation
God is watching over His world, His Church, His leaders, and He is certainly watching over you.
Is there a happy future for you and your posterity in these latter days? Absolutely! Most assuredly you have a beautiful future.
Will there be difficult times when those ominous latter-day warnings and prophecies are fulfilled? Of course there will. There always have been. Be prepared.
Will those who have built upon the great rock of Christ withstand such winds, such hail, and the mighty shafts in the whirlwind? You know that they will. You have it on good word. You have it on His word!
That “rock upon which ye are built . . . is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men [and women] build they cannot fall” (see Helaman 5:12).