Chapter 2:The Purpose of Prophecy

The voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days.1


As we study the prophecies of the latter days, it is important to ask ourselves why the Lord has given us these prophecies, why He wants to tell us what the future holds, and what important objectives He is achieving in giving us these prophecies.


The Lord Uses Prophecy to Fulfill His Purposes


One purpose of latter-day prophecy is that it shows that the Lord is in control of the events that happen here upon the earth, and that He knows about them before they occur. As the incidents of the last days begin to unfold before our eyes, they will fulfill prophecies that were given to the Lord’s prophets hundreds and thousands of years ago. This will witness that He knew of these things from the beginning, and it will verify that He is orchestrating the events of the latter days to fulfill His eternal purposes.


The prophet Isaiah testified of this. Throughout their history, the children of Israel went through many periods of degenerate apostasy, when they would reject the Lord and worship idols of wood and stone. In their apostate state, they would assume that the idols they worshiped were the source of the miracles in their lives, instead of giving credit to the Lord. To circumvent this, the Lord told His prophets of events before they came to pass so that the people would know that the true source of these things was the Lord God Jehovah, who knows all things from beginning to end. The Lord told these wicked Israelites:


    “I have even from the beginning declared to thee; before it came to pass I showed them thee; and I showed them for fear lest thou shouldst say---mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image hath commanded them.”2


The Lord Wants to Warn the Righteous and Encourage the People to Repent


One of the most important purposes of prophecy is to warn the righteous of the events that will soon affect them. The Lord wants to bless the righteous---to help and assist those who will obey Him and follow His commandments. As King David poetically declared, “For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.”3 When the righteous are warned by the prophecies of the Lord, they can then prepare themselves for the events of the last days.


Another purpose of prophecy is that it is used by the Lord to encourage the people to repent. All of us have the need to repent and to do better in our lives, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”4 When the Lord warns us that He will destroy the wicked in the last days, it causes us to ponder our lives---to make certain that we are among the righteous and not the wicked. The Lord has promised that “my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.”5


Standing in Holy Places


President Ezra Taft Benson has told us that “holy men and holy women stand in holy places, and these holy places include our temples, our chapels, our homes, and the stakes of Zion, which are, as the Lord declares, ‘for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth’ (D&C 115:6).”6 As we sanctify our homes and lives by repenting and by growing in righteousness, we can be certain that we will be standing in holy places in preparation for the events of the last days.


Prophecy, and its fulfillment, act like a sieve to separate the righteous from the wicked. The Lord has asked the members of His latter-day church to “lift a warning voice unto the inhabitants of the earth; and declare both by word and by flight that desolation shall come upon the wicked.”7 Those who are willing to repent will respond to this warning voice and will flee the wicked cities to join the righteous so that they will not be destroyed. Only the righteous will be protected from the judgments to be poured out upon the wicked world in the last days as they stand in holy places.8


Latter-day Prophecies Give Us Knowledge and Peace


The prophecies of the latter days and the gospel of Jesus Christ were given to strengthen us. As the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith:


    “The Lord sent forth the fullness of His gospel, His everlasting covenant, reasoning in plainness and simplicity---to prepare the weak for those things which are coming on the earth.”9


Those who may feel weak or unprepared can find hope, strength and comfort in the gospel and the prophecies of the latter days. With the power of the Lord in their lives, they can go forth to build up His kingdom.


We have been richly blessed by the words of the Lord’s prophets. The revelations that these faithful servants received were given to them in answer to their sincere prayers. If they had not asked the Lord the questions that they did, they would not have received the prophetic revelations that they were given.


We can find an example of this in the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The events of the last days were a subject of utmost concern to him. After revealing to Joseph some of the events of the latter days, the Lord concluded by telling him, “I tell you these things because of your prayers.”10 Because Joseph was willing to ask the Lord, he left us a tremendous legacy of latter-day prophecy that can abundantly bless our lives.


Preparing for the Events of the Last Days


Our foreknowledge of what the future holds can prepare us mentally, spiritually and emotionally for what lies ahead. Because God has told His prophets what will occur, when the traumatic events of the last days begin to happen, we will understand that He is fulfilling His purposes in the latter days. This is the knowledge that will bring us peace. This calming peace will be an absolute necessity in the tumultuous times of the last days.11


When we understand the prophecies of the latter days, we will also prepare ourselves physically and financially for these future events---not in a spirit of fear or trepidation, but in a spirit of loving appreciation and gratitude.


Preparation is a wonderful thing. As the Lord has told us, “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”12 Those who are prepared are happier and possess inner peace. Those who are unprepared are troubled, “looking forth with fear for the judgments of the Almighty God, which should come upon the wicked.”13


As we prepare ourselves, we will be able to warn and help others to appreciate the magnitude of the latter-day events that will soon transpire. As the Prophet Joseph Smith said:


    “I know not how soon these things will take place; but with a view of them, shall I cry peace? No; I will lift up my voice and testify of them.”14


By studying the words of the prophets, we will know the events that are coming and the signs that foretell their arrival. As Wilford Woodruff told us:


    “The Latter-day Saint, in the vision of his mind, sees displayed on the great panorama of the world all the scenes that are to transpire in the present day, while the wicked are ignorant of what is about to transpire; they do not know what is the matter; while there are cholera, whirlwinds, storms, thunder and lightning, and earthquakes in divers places, and kingdom is rising against kingdom in battle array, they are ignorant of what will be the end of these matters, and the cause of their existence, because the things of God are not before their eyes.”15


Many of the last-day prophecies portend days of great difficulty ahead. However, as we shall see, these prophecies also contain a thrilling message of the wonderful and unexpected things that await those who will follow the Lord during these difficult times of the latter days.

 

Chapter Footnotes


1 . D&C 1:4.
2 . 1 Nephi 20:5; Isaiah 48:5.
3 . Psalms 5:12; see also 1 Nephi 17:33-35; D&C 82:10.
4 . Romans 3:23.
5 . D&C 45:32.
6 . Ezra Taft Benson, “Prepare Yourselves for the Great Day of the Lord,” April 14, 1981, Speeches of the Year (Provo: Brigham Young University, 1981), p. 68; emphasis added.
7 . D&C 63:37; emphasis added.
8 . 1 Nephi 14:14, 22:17; D&C 45:32, 67-71, 97:25, 101:10-15, 115:6; Moses 7:61.
9 . D&C 133:57-58; emphasis added.
10 . D&C 38:30.
11 . Joseph Smith---Matthew 1:30.
12 . D&C 38:30.
13 . Moses 7:66.
14 . History of the Church 3:391.
15 . Wilford Woodruff, February 25, 1855, Journal of Discourses 2:199.