An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Second Coming’

Jesus Returns–Today and Every Day

We mortals spend much of our lives hoping for a better future. We’ll be happy when we have more money, more time, more energy, more anything. From a religious point of view, hope is generally in the distant future. Hope for life after death. Hope for the Second Coming.

For 2,000 years, Christians have anticipated the literal return of Jesus to rule upon the earth in peace. Religionists have tried to forecast the exact time, making imaginative calculations based on  Daniel’s apocalyptic vision. Joseph Smith asked the Lord to pinpoint the time of the Second Coming, but received an ambiguous answer. Generations of Mormons since Joseph have maintained the time is very near—possibly within their own lifetimes. Evangelical Christians harbor the same expectation.

Bible scholar Marcus Borg offers a different approach to anticipating Jesus’s return. In his book, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, Borg suggests that Jesus can return at any time to believers. He specifically mentions during the Eucharist (LDS Sacrament), in celebrating Christmas, and at other times when we experience the Spirit of Christ. Borg’s metaphorical expansion of the Second Coming of Christ to include individual moments in the present applies Christian hope to our own time and place.

From Borg’s perspective, Jesus returns at those moment we seek out and sit by a lonely person at a church meeting or social, the moments we speak up for those of different color or customs, the moments we replace envy with happiness for a person who gets a better job than ours, the moments we push aside pride to listen to views opposing our own.  At these moments, Jesus returns.

Last Days

A recent blog about 2012, the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar, reminded me of the speculation about the Second Coming I’ve heard during my lifetime of LDS Church membership. A Sunday School teacher once showed our unruly class a newspaper photo of a cloud pattern that resembled Jesus’ face. “Now I don’t want to frighten you,” Sister Durrant said as she suggested the cloud formation could be a sign of the Savior’s imminent arrival. Like heck she didn’t want to scare us. Her pay-off? A frozen classroom of pre-adolescents terrified to make an irreverent move or sound that Jesus in the clouds might see or hear.

When I learned that 80-year-old Brother Hansen’s patriarchal blessing promised he would live to see the Savior come, I prayed for his good health and long life.  A spectacular sunset once prompted my grandmother to imagine it as the perfect setting for the Savior to appear from Heaven. I visualized Jesus descending through the pink and gold clouds and panicked. At twelve I was less ready for the Rapture than Grandma. How could I repent in preparation for the Great and Terrible Day when I hadn’t sample any sins?

By the time I graduated from BYU, I was pretty well convinced the Second Coming was imminent. The Cold War sizzled. Would George and I have time to start a family? I wanted to live in the West where I felt more protected from atomic attacks, but knew we’d eventually have to make the trek to Missouri—assuming we were righteous enough not to be destroyed in the apocalyptic events leading up to the Savior’s appearance.

During the late ‘60s Seattle’s tranquility was broken by race riots, proving the fulfillment of prophecy. A high councilor addressing our ward advised not only food storage, but also a camper truck with a winch to pull it over boulders and trees. Roads would not be safe for our families and bags of wheat and soy beans. I bought glasses knowing my contact lens might not be convenient on an extended campout. Since George and I didn’t own a truck and winch, I figured we’d be walking back to MO.

We actually moved to rural Utah in 1979 in order to be self-sufficient on a half-acre lot—well, as self-sufficient as possible—and it was closer to Missouri. Our little town of Glenwood filled with other LDS families moving back to Utah to hunker down for the final inning. We raised animals, gardened, canned, and chopped firewood. The economy tanked in the early ‘80s, but nothing worse happened and subsistence living got pretty boring. One by one, we millenarians migrated back to cities for jobs that would pay for our kids’ college and missions.

While the LDS Church has never officially opined on the date of the Return, Relief Society, Priesthood and Sunday School lessons as well as General Conference addresses frequently focus on preparing for the last days and the return of the Savior. Members jumped on board in 1999 and boosted the economy by buying up food, batteries, generators and other devices to make the End more comfortable. Storage items purchased for the 2000 date of the Second Coming are nine years old now.  Will the Mayan Calendar story drive a new wave of preparedness frenzy?

At this point, current events cause me more fear than prophecy. The spread of nuclear weapons to countries with unstable governments is a serious threat to human survival. My new concern? What if we blow up the world and Jesus doesn’t come?

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