They turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men. And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.1
As the wicked turn against the Church in the last days, an important but tragic event will soon occur: the missionaries---the messengers of the gospel---will be withdrawn from the Gentile nations, bringing to an end “the times of the Gentiles.”2 The Gentiles have had the gospel preached to them for almost two millennia, but this will come to an end. These wicked nations will then bring upon themselves the wrath of God, and death and destruction will eventually be unleashed upon them.
The Beginning of the Times of the Gentiles
The scriptures are filled with prophecies of the end of the times of the Gentiles, but when did the times of the Gentiles actually begin?
Since the rise of the house of Israel in the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the gospel was principally given only to the children of the covenant. This practice continued up through the lifetime of the Savior. During His mortal life He ministered solely to the tribes of Israel that lived in the land of Jerusalem.3 At that time, the only remaining tribes of Israel in that region were principally the Jews and the Levites.
After the Savior’s death and resurrection, Peter, who was now the president of the Church, was shown a vision of beasts that were considered common or unclean to the Jewish people, and he was commanded to kill, cook and eat them. When Peter protested, the Lord commanded him, “What God hath cleansed, call not thou common.”4 Peter pondered deeply about this vision. It was only a short time after this that Cornelius, who was a Gentile, came to Peter and asked if he could be baptized. Because of this new direction from the Lord, his request was granted.
The Lord’s Apostles and Seventies soon began to preach the gospel in the Gentile nations throughout the Middle East and parts of Europe. However, the Church eventually succumbed to the sickening disease of false doctrine and apostasy, and the true gospel message was lost to mankind.
After more than a thousand years of the Great Apostasy, the gospel was restored in the Gentile nation of America. In declaring the wonderful news of the initiation of the Restoration, the Lord proclaimed:
“And now, verily saith the Lord, that these things might be known among you, O inhabitants of the earth, I have sent forth mine angel flying through the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel, who hath appeared unto some and hath committed it unto man, who shall appear unto many that dwell on the earth. And this gospel shall be preached unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.”5
Taking this mission to heart, the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have spread throughout the world for more than 175 years, teaching the message of the gospel to all the Gentiles who will receive it. It is noteworthy that the missionaries have been sent specifically to the Gentile nations. This is the epoch when the “first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”6 Even though the Gentiles were the last people to receive the gospel in ancient times, they are now the first ones to receive it in the latter days. But the Lord has His own plans for the Jewish people, as President Brigham Young taught:
“Jerusalem is not to be redeemed by our going there and preaching to the inhabitants. It will be redeemed by the high hand of the Almighty. It will be given into the possession of the ancient Israelites by the power of God, and by the pouring out of His judgments.”7
The End of the Times of the Gentiles
The times of the Gentiles will someday come to a close. For many millennia the prophets have spoken of the withdrawal of the gospel from the Gentile nations, indicating that this would be an important time of transition.8
More specifically, the Prophet Joseph Smith said that the gospel would just be entering the last Gentile nations when the times of the Gentiles would come to an end and destruction would descend upon the wicked. On two different occasions he taught:
“The servants of God will not have gone over the nations of the Gentiles, with a warning voice, until the destroying angel will commence to waste the inhabitants of the earth, and as the prophet hath said, ‘It shall be a vexation to hear the report’ [Isaiah 28:19].”9
“The last revelation says ye shall not have time to have gone over the earth until these things come. It will come as did the cholera; war, fires, and earthquakes; one pestilence after another, until the Ancient of Days comes, then judgment will be given to the Saints.”10
The Destruction of the Wicked Will Occur After the Missionaries Are Called Home
As the wicked begin to persecute the righteous with increasing intensity, the missionaries will be withdrawn from the Gentile nations, and their destruction will soon follow. The Savior told His Twelve Apostles in Jerusalem:
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come, or the destruction of the wicked.”11
In a modern revelation the Lord said that it will be the same generation of men which rejects the gospel who will then feel the wrath of God. In speaking of the times in which we live, He said:
“A light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fullness of my gospel; but they receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men. And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
“And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land. But 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. And there shall be earthquakes also in divers places, and many desolations; yet men will harden their hearts against me, and they will take up the sword, one against another, and they will kill one another.”12
It is sad to consider the terrible destruction and loss of life that are awaiting these errant souls who reject the missionaries and their message of salvation. If the wicked would only repent and join the righteous, their lives would be preserved. But when the Lord begins to pour out His judgments, it is too late. In speaking to the missionaries of the Church, the Lord described the many traumatic events awaiting the wicked when they reject the gospel:
“And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people. For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand.
“And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds. And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.”13
Modern Prophets Describe in Detail the Fate of the Wicked Who Reject the Gospel
President Brigham Young explained in great detail the destiny of the wicked when the missionaries are withdrawn. The destruction that will befall them will be so catastrophic that it will leave the people in a state of shock and horror. As the luxuries and conveniences of modern life are stripped away, chaos will descend upon the wicked as the people fight and pillage among themselves. President Young said:
“When the testimony of the elders ceases to be given, and the Lord says to them, ‘Come home; I will now preach my own sermons to the nations of the earth,’ all you now know can scarcely be called a preface to the sermon that will be preached with fire and sword, tempests, earthquakes, hail, rain, thunders and lightnings, and fearful destruction. . . .
“You will hear of magnificent cities, now idolized by the people, sinking in the earth, entombing the inhabitants. The sea will heave itself beyond its bounds, engulfing mighty cities.
“Famine will spread over the nations, and nation will rise up against nation, kingdom against kingdom, and states against states, in our own country and in foreign lands; and they will destroy each other, caring not for the blood and lives of their neighbors, of their families, or for their own lives. They will be like the Jaredites who preceded the Nephites upon this continent, and will destroy each other to the last man, through the anger that the devil will place in their hearts, because they have rejected the words of life and are given over to Satan to do whatever he listeth to do with them.”14
The righteous will not rejoice in these massive destructions of the wicked, but they will grieve for the loss of so many precious souls that could have been saved if they had only heeded the word of God. President Young continued:
“You may think that the little you hear of now is grievous; yet the faithful of God’s people will see days that will cause them to close their eyes because of the sorrow that will come upon the wicked nations. The hearts of the faithful will be filled with pain and anguish for them.”15
Wilford Woodruff also added his testimony about the fate of the wicked when they reject the missionaries of God:
“I can further testify, that there is no nation that will escape the judgments of the Almighty. There is no ear but what has to be penetrated with the sound of the gospel of Christ; and by-and-by the elders of Israel will be taken from those nations where they are now preaching, and there will be another set of missionaries sent among the people; there will be the voice of lightning, the noise of war, and of all those judgments which have been enumerated and prophesied of since the beginning of time, and they will go forth among the nations until the land is cleansed from the abominations that now reign upon the face of the earth.”16
“By and by the testimony of the gospel will be sealed among the Gentiles, and the gospel will turn to the whole house of Israel, and the judgments of God will back up the testimony of the elders of this Church, and the Lord will send messengers who will go forth and reap down the earth.”17
When these destructions rain down upon the heads of the wicked at the end of the times of Gentiles, all national unity will be destroyed as disorder fills the land. This will begin to fulfill the prophecy of Daniel, in which he saw that the kingdoms of the world will be destroyed and replaced by the political Kingdom of God.18 The Lord will then be able to rule the nations in righteousness during the Millennium. Elder Parley P. Pratt told us:
“Now, when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled there will be an uprooting of their governments and institutions, and of their civil, political, and religious polity [organization]. There will be a shaking of nations, a downfall of empires, an upturning of thrones and dominions, as Daniel has foretold, and the kingdom and power, and rule on the earth will return to another people, and exist under another polity, as Daniel has further foretold.”19
It is during this time of chaos that peace and order will be found only among the righteous.20 The Saints who have been tried and persecuted by the wicked will soon find that they are the only ones who hold the most precious gift upon the face of the earth---order, structure and law-abiding communities. The reward for their patience in persecution will be highly treasured by those subsisting in the pandemonium of a world in complete collapse.
The Wicked Will Bring Destruction Upon Themselves Because They Will Not Repent
The Lord does not want to destroy the wicked, but prefers that they repent and follow Him. However, when a person refuses to repent and becomes more calloused in sin, he can reach the point that he is unable to hear the voice of his conscience, which is the spirit of Christ given to every person.21 When the iniquity of the wicked increases to the point that they are “past feeling,”22 their fate will be sealed. The Lord has said:
“And it shall come to pass, because of the wickedness of the world, that I will take vengeance upon the wicked, for they will not repent; for the cup of mine indignation is full; for behold, my blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not.”23
The Lord wants all men and women to repent so that they can partake of His mercy, be cleansed of their sins, and return to dwell with Him in celestial glory.24 He is deeply concerned about the eternal welfare of every soul. As the Lord warned in two separate revelations to the Prophet Joseph, the angels of God are preparing to come forth and destroy the wicked, and the time for repentance is rapidly drawing to a close:
“Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear: Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh; and the anger of the Lord is kindled, and His sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.”25
“Wherefore, verily I say, let the wicked take heed, and let the rebellious fear and tremble; and let the unbelieving hold their lips, for the day of wrath shall come upon them as a whirlwind, and all flesh shall know that I am God. . . . For this is a day of warning, and not a day of many words. For I, the Lord, am not to be mocked in the last days.”26
The Lord is grieved when the wicked will not repent. He has continually called upon them to change their lives of wickedness. He has sent the testimonies of the missionaries, and He will send the testimonies of the elements, each of which are crying repentance unto the people. The Lord lamented in a modern revelation:
“How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, and by the great sound of a trump, and by the voice of judgment, and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor and the riches of eternal life, and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not!”27
Modern Prophets Testify that the Lord Will Bring Destruction Upon the Wicked
The prophets in our times have also added their testimonies of the destruction of the wicked who will not repent. Wilford Woodruff admonished the people that they would bring the judgments of God down upon themselves if they rejected the gospel. This will happen because the many atrocities that the Jews have suffered at the hands of the Gentiles will someday have to be answered upon the heads of the wicked Gentiles. Elder Woodruff warned:
“Let the Gentile nations who reject the gospel, which is now sent to them, prepare to meet the judgments of an offended God! For when their cup is full even to the brim, the Lord will then remember the chastisement of the Jews, His favored people, and at whose hands they will have received double for their iniquities. Offenses must come, said the Savior, but woe unto them by whom they come. Woe unto the Gentiles, who have administered afflictions to the Jews for these many years!”28
Heber C. Kimball also testified:
“Do you suppose that God would give revelations and tell us to warn the inhabitants of the earth of things which were coming speedily upon them, if He did not intend that those things should come? He said that they should feel them, and I know that they are bound to feel them; for they will not repent.29
The Wicked Must Be Warned Before They Can Be Destroyed
According to the prophets, the destruction of the wicked will occur only after they have been told that they need to repent and they have rejected this message of salvation. President Brigham Young said:
“The gospel of life and salvation must be preached in all the world, that all may be judged thereby. Every nation, kindred, tongue and people must be warned before the Lord can come out of His hiding place, and waste away the wicked who have rejected His warning message.”30
Wilford Woodruff also reiterated this same message, pointing out that it has been a pattern of the Lord from the beginning of the world to warn the wicked before they are destroyed:
“Did you ever know the Lord to bring His judgments upon any nation, from the days of Adam in the Garden of Eden until the present time, before He had warned them of their sins? No; the Lord has always warned the people before He has punished them for their wickedness.”31
“When the messengers of God have given a faithful warning to the wicked of their approaching overthrow, and the testimony is sealed, then will the Lord come out of His hiding place and vex them with a sore vexation. . . . There will be great mourning, and weeping, and lamentations in the land, and no power can stay the work of desolation and utter overthrow of the wicked.”32
The Sword of God’s Justice Hangs Over the Americas
The prophets have warned the people that it is the iniquity of a nation that brings about its downfall, especially when it is a nation that has been founded by God. There is no question whatsoever that the United States of America was founded by God. The Lord has told us that He raised up wise men and blessed them with inspiration from heaven so that they could write the Constitution and establish this nation.33 In a prophecy that is especially poignant for our day, President Wilford Woodruff predicted the destiny of any nation that becomes wicked and sows the seeds for its own destruction:
“Whenever a nation is ripened in iniquity, the Lord raises up prophets and inspired men and they are sent forth to warn that nation, and when they have warned the people and given unto them the word of the Lord, that word will not fall unfulfilled.”34
Wilford Woodruff was well aware of the wickedness of the people in his day. He knew that there can be only one consequence for the wicked who will not repent, as they rapidly fill their cup of iniquity. He told the people:
“When I contemplate the condition of our nation, and see that wickedness and abominations are increasing, so much so that the whole heavens groan and weep over the abominations of this nation and the nations of the earth, I ask myself the question, ‘Can the American nation escape?’ The answer comes, ‘No. Its destruction, as well as the destruction of the world, is sure; just as sure as the Lord cut off and destroyed the two great and prosperous nations that once inhabited this continent of North and South America, because of their wickedness, so will He them destroy, and sooner or later they will reap the fruits of their own wicked acts, and be numbered among the past.’
“I cannot help it; I would to God they would repent, that their eyes might be opened to see their condition; but the devil has power over them; he rules the children of men, he holds Babylon in his own hand, and leads the people whithersoever he will.
“There are changes awaiting us, they are even nigh at our very doors, and I know it by the revelations of Jesus Christ; I know it by the visions of heaven; I know it by the administrations of angels, and I know it by the inspiration of heaven, that is given to all men who seek the Lord; and the hand of God will not stay these things. We have no time to lose.”35
The Lord has clearly promised to destroy the wicked in the latter days. But what promises has He given the righteous during these times of trial?
1 . D&C 45:29-30.
2 . Luke 21:24; D&C 45:25-30.
3 . Mark 7:25-27.
4 . Acts 10:9-16.
5 . D&C 133:36-37.
6 . Matthew 19:30; Acts 13:45-47; D&C 90:9, 107:33-35, 97, 133:8.
7 . Brigham Young, December 3, 1854, Journal of Discourses 2:141.
8 . 1 Nephi 10:14, 13:42; 2 Nephi 30:7-8; 3 Nephi 16:10-12, 20:15-22, 21:11-21; D&C 45:28-30, 88:81-84, 90:9-10, 107:33-35.
9 . History of the Church 2:263.
10 . History of the Church 3:390-391.
11 . Joseph Smith---Matthew 1:31.
12 . D&C 45:28-30.
13 . D&C 88:88-91; emphasis added.
14 . Brigham Young, July 15, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:123.
15 . Brigham Young, July 15, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:123.
16 . Wilford Woodruff, July 27, 1862, Journal of Discourses 10:16.
17 . Wilford Woodruff, June 27, 1875, Journal of Discourses 18:38.
18 . Daniel 7:9-14, 26-27.
19 . Parley P. Pratt, October 7, 1855, Journal of Discourses 3:135.
20 . 1 Nephi 14:14, 22:17; D&C 45:32, 67-71, 97:25, 101:10-15, 115:6; Moses 7:61.
21 . Moroni 7:16-19.
22 . 1 Nephi 17:45.
23 . D&C 29:17; emphasis added.
24 . D&C 19:16-20.
25 . D&C 1:11-13; emphasis added.
26 . D&C 63:6, 58; emphasis added.
27 . D&C 43:22-26.
28 . Wilford Woodruff, August 13, 1876, Journal of Discourses 18:220-221.
29 . Heber C. Kimball, April 6, 1857, Journal of Discourses 5:23.
30 . Brigham Young, December 11, 1864, Journal of Discourses 11:13.
31 . Wilford Woodruff, April 22, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:263.
32 . Wilford Woodruff, June 2, 1863, Journal of Discourses 10:219.
33 . D&C 101:80.
34 . Wilford Woodruff, April 6, 1890, in Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, volume 2, (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1988).
35 . Wilford Woodruff, August 1, 1880, Journal of Discourses 21:301.