The scriptures that speak of the last days before the Lord’s coming describe physical conditions that sound like a worldwide environmental crisis – or rather, multiple environmental crises. So many that the earth cannot maintain its regular state; its systems overwhelmed and out of balance, with feedback multiplying the results and shocks, growing exponentially until it comes to the crux – at which point, the Saviour will appear and usher in the Millenium (after some winding-up events).
The scriptures also describe how humanity reacts: some with great fear, others taking all the more advantage of those caught in the crossfire; and some going merrily and obliviously on their way, as though nothing is different and life can continue as normal (keep going all out, earning and dealing money, focusing on extracting all you can from the planet; we can all live a prosperous life this way). Still others figure they should party while they can. The commotion of the earth and her systems is echoed by that of human societies. Morals are chaotic and what’s acceptable and unacceptable is fluctuating to mad extremes.
The earth has always experienced upheavals – we’re not the first to live during them. But we live in a time when the unusual is becoming normal. Everything out of season – hailstorms and snowstorms, heatwaves and general elevated temperatures, more frequent cycles of drought and flood, with floods increasing in intensity; fauna and flora extinctions and unprecedented migrations; earthquakes and tornadoes out of place. More powerful, larger cyclones and hurricanes, with some moving out of their habitual areas; increasingly intense and regular bushfires. We had two 33-degree days (Celsius) last week – in the middle of April and autumn. Regular daytime maximums here are at 27-29 degrees right now, and have been for a few weeks.
I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. ~ Joel 2:30-31
And they shall hear of wars, and rumours of wars. Behold I speak for mine elect’s sake; for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. And again, because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold; but he that shall not be overcome, the same shall be saved….. And except those days should be shortened, there should none of their flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake, according to the covenant, those days shall be shortened. ~ JS-Matthew (c.f. Matt. 24), vv. 28-30; 20
It seems evident to me that the upheavals the earth is experiencing, and will in the future, are the result of the mismanagement, greed, selfishness, fear and lack of foresight among those who have lived and are now living on it. I used to think that all these wonders would occur because God decreed them and would send them down among us – a child’s understanding, I suppose. Now, more and more, I see them as the natural result of this poor stewardship of the planet humanity was given to take care of. The interconnected systems of our world are unbalanced and in commotion because the actions of humans have pushed them over the edge – or are currently pushing them, as some are still on the edge. The wholesale destruction and extraction of our earth cannot continue without causing these effects. These famous prophecies are, as always, the predictions of a God who sees everything – both in front of Him as it happens, being unconstrained by Time, and the logical results of a long process of actions and events.
Some might say that it ‘had to happen’, so we were always powerless to prevent it – it was always going to occur. Well, yes; but only because that is what people do, not because it was completely inevitable and unchangeable. In the same way that Christ ‘had to die’, those particular people did not have to do it, or do it that way; no one ‘had’ to perpetrate evil and injustice towards the most perfect, innocent Man on earth. It was the result of choices by many.
The conditions of the earth right now are the result of choices by many, over millenia, and especially the last 2-300 years; or you could even say the last 100. At any of these points, I believe, different choices could have been made that would have adjusted the course of what’s now happening. It has been prophesied since the beginning because that is what people were going to do; but it wasn’t inevitable. Imagine if enough people had chosen differently, over time, or even recently, and our world, instead of becoming more unstable and chaotic, with the prophesied events being fulfilled in all their terror, developed gracefully into the society which God will come to establish? If enough people, in enough places, caused this to happen by their goodness, selflessness, enlightenment and humility? I believe it didn’t have to happen this way. It will, because that’s what humanity is like as a whole group.
But the redeeming truth is that there is also light and goodness in people, and that light invites more light from Christ; enough to create what will become Zion in all her glory – a place where peace and equity reigns, and where all who will can come and be protected and blessed.
And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defense. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain. ~ Isaiah 4:5-6
And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God; And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there, insomuch that the wicked will not come into it, and it shall be called Zion. And it shall come to pass that every man that will not take up his sword against his neighbour must needs flee unto Zion for safety. And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another. And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand. ~ Doctrine & Covenants 45:66-70
This – Zion – is where hope stands. This is what our missionary efforts around the world are for; what our work in the Church is for. Eternal salvation, of course, and the establishment of Zion on the earth in such a way that it will be the refuge described above. We do it not just for those who believe in God, but for all those who are pure in heart and desire what is good and strive to do it. Zion will be a refuge for all of these – the only one left in the end. I am convinced that this is what our work should be, as a priority.