Around the age of thirteen I became deeply interested in the Millennium. When I was in the seventh grade I hung a picture of the second coming in my room. It showed Jesus descending to (what now looks like) the deserts of southern Utah, flanked on the right and left by angels with long trumpets. Truth be told, I was actually more interested in the “signs of the times” than in the peace Jesus’s millennial reign would inaugurate. The most vivid sign of all, for me, was that the moon would turn red with blood. Without recognizing it at the time, I was especially thrilled with the idea that some sort of complete upheaval was on the way, that “the world” and “the wicked” (usually synonymous) would get their just desserts while good church members like me would miraculously escape harm.
Plenty of New Testament references can be marshaled (pun intended) to make the case that the end of the world is just around the corner. The LDS publishing industry has a remarkable number of books outlining the signs. Various informal Mormon groups can help you get outfitted for the impending apocalypse. And I don’t think a Sunday goes by in my ward that someone doesn’t furtively declare that these are surely the last days.
A cursory glance at our history, and Christian history more broadly, tells us one important consideration with regard to End Times: it’s always been just around the corner. Early Christians were baffled when they began dying off before Jesus returned, drawing new theological explanations from Paul. Joseph Smith and the early saints believed the second coming could happen in their lifetimes. Patriarchal blessings identified the people who would live to see it happen. They’re all gone now. In one sense, their “Last Days” are over. And we’re still here.
Our earth is host to a staggering amount of pain and suffering, warfare, human trafficking, abuse, inequity, despair.
Our earth is home to a remarkable amount of kindness, love, and hope.
Rolling forth the Kingdom of God seems to be a matter chiefly of turning these latter things back against those former things. Obsessing about the former without acknowledging or employing the latter—or without acknowledging that in some ways we too are part of the ongoing turmoil in the world and not merely lone and righteous onlookers—seems to be a dark expression of faith without works.
Regardless of whether Jesus Christ bodily returns next year or in 2,000 years, these are my Last Days. And all things considered, they’ve been very good to me. The fact that you’re reading this suggests they’ve been comparatively good to you, too. I want to make the most of them.
Or, in the words of a latter-day prophet:
“I see so many good people everywhere—and there’s so much of good in them. And the world is good. Wonderful things are happening in this world. This is the greatest age in the history of the earth. …We have every reason to be optimistic in this world. Tragedy is around, yes. Problems everywhere, yes. … You can’t, you don’t, build out of pessimism or cynicism. You look with optimism, work with faith, and things happen” (President Gordon B. Hinckley, quoted in the Ensign, June 1995).