I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.1
The Lord has given great promises to the righteous. He has told us through His prophets those things that we must do in order to receive His protection. He has also told us why some of the righteous might perish---in spite of His protection---and He has promised them great blessings in the next world. He has also explained how the righteousness of the Saints can bring them great power and cause the wicked to withdraw in terror.
The Lord Wants to Bless His Servants
The prophets of God have told us that the Lord will bless the righteous. We can find ample examples of the blessings of the Lord in our lives each day. We are richly blessed both spiritually and physically. We are blessed with peace, guidance and comfort from the Holy Spirit. We are blessed with hope and the promise of eternal life and exaltation through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We are blessed through obedience to the law of tithing and other commandments. The Lord will bless us according to our righteousness, as Heber C. Kimball prophesied:
“I have said a hundred times that we never shall want for bread, meat, and the comforts of life, worlds without end, if we will only do right. That is my prophecy, and always was; and it is true.”2
“If you will do right---keep the commandments of God---I can say with all the propriety that any man, prophet, or apostle ever did, you shall never want for food, or raiment, or houses, or lands; and no power on the earth can injure you. There is no power that shall prevent our prosperity; for we shall increase, while every other power upon the earth that is opposed to this work and our God will go down. I just know it.”3
Heber C. Kimball also said that our righteousness would not only lead to the prosperity of the Saints, but it would also result in their protection. He counseled the Saints in his day:
“If this people will take this course, and live their religion in all things, I can prophesy in the name of Israel’s God that you will never have to fire a gun, for the Lord will send His angels to do the work of destruction among the wicked. The Almighty will lead the wicked as a man leads a horse, at pleasure.”4
The Righteous Will Receive Help from the Heavens
Heavenly help and protection will only be found among the righteous. The wicked and those members of the Church who are not faithful will be exposed and vulnerable when the wrath of God is poured out in the judgments of the latter days. When the United States government was threatening to send armies to the Utah territory in the mid-1850s, President Brigham Young took comfort in the fact that he was living among the Saints in Utah. He said:
“I would rather be in the midst of these mountains with one thousand or even five hundred men who are Latter-day Saints, than with five hundred thousand wicked men, in case all the forces of the earth were to come against us to battle, for God would fight the battles of the Saints, but He has not agreed to fight the battles of wicked men.”5
This prophetic statement was soon fulfilled. Two years later, in 1857, the United States sent troops to Utah when it was misreported in Washington, D.C. that the Saints were in open rebellion against the federal government. Courageous members of the Church were sent into the mountains to burn the grass in front of the troops so that the army’s animals would be unable to feed. The Saints were also able to burn many of the supply wagons of the troops, and the army was terribly inhibited in its march to Utah.
Through the providence of God, the leaders of the army were confused about the real purpose of their mission, and discouragement soon filled the hearts of the soldiers. When the winter snows began to descend upon them in the mountains of Wyoming, their animals began to rapidly perish. After spending a difficult winter near the location of burned-out Fort Bridger, the troops meekly entered Utah at the end of June 1858, and the Saints were saved by the almighty hand of the Lord God Jehovah. Because President James Buchanan had overreacted and sent this army into these disastrous circumstances, this whole episode was soon referred to as “Buchanan’s Blunder.”6
In 1859, after the crisis was behind them, President Young told the Saints:
“I felt and still feel that I would rather have ten righteous men with whom to contend with the wicked of the whole earth, than to have at my command the corrupt of all creation. When I am brought to the test to fight for my religion, which I trust I never will be, I will call men who are full of the power of God for such an emergency.”7
Only Those Who Are Righteous Will Merit Protection
President Wilford Woodruff also told the Saints that only the faithful and righteous will be shielded and protected in the latter days:
“The priesthood of God who honor their priesthood, and who are worthy of their blessings are the only ones who shall have this safety and protection. They are the only mortal beings. No other people have a right to be shielded from these judgments. They are at our very doors; not even this people will escape them entirely.
“They will come down like the judgments of Sodom and Gomorrah. And none but the priesthood will be safe from their fury. God has held the angels of destruction for many years, lest they should reap down the wheat with the tares.”8
“I will repeat what I have often said---there is no power beneath the heavens that can remove Zion out of her place, or destroy this Church and kingdom, as long as the people do the will of God, for He will sustain them, and overrule the acts of their enemies for their good and for the final triumph of His truth in the earth.”9
The Lord has warned the Saints that if they will not humbly follow Him, great judgments from His almighty hand await them:
“For it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that at that day whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off from among my people, O house of Israel; and I will execute vengeance and fury upon them, even as upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.”10
But if the Saints are faithful, great and marvelous blessings await them, as the Lord then promised:
“But if they will repent and hearken unto my words, and harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for their inheritance; and they shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem.
“And then shall they assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem. And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in the midst.”11
Some of the Righteous Will Perish
Even though the righteous will be protected during the last days, we must remember that some of them will still perish due to a weakened immune system or from other health problems. Even today, some of the Saints become sick and die, and this will continue to happen during the events of the latter days. The Prophet Joseph Smith cautioned us to be careful not to judge those who might happen to die during the difficulties of the last days, for we cannot determine if they were righteous or wicked. He recorded in his history:
“[I] explained concerning the coming of the Son of Man; also that it is a false idea that the Saints will escape all the judgments, whilst the wicked suffer; for all flesh is subject to suffer, and ‘the righteous shall hardly escape’ [D&C 63:34]; still many of the Saints will escape, for the just shall live by faith.
“Yet many of the righteous shall fall prey to disease, to pestilence, etc., by reason of the weakness of the flesh, and yet be saved in the kingdom of God. So that it is an unhallowed principle to say that such and such have transgressed because they have been preyed upon by disease or death.”12
It is true that those who die might have a special mission to perform on the other side of the veil. The Lord knows how to accomplish His purposes, and sometimes He will call home those who have an important task to accomplish in the spirit world.13 It is human nature for us to fear death, but to the Lord death is merely a part of the plan of salvation.14 As long as we are valiant, we can serve Him on either side of the veil, wherever He might ask us.
We do not need to fear the events that the future might hold. Our strength can be found in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Although the last days may be difficult, Heber C. Kimball promised that they would be bearable to the righteous:
“The trials in the last days will be numerous, but to the faithful they will be of but [a] small moment, for they will live above these things, they will increase in power.”15
In the final analysis, we are being watched over by a loving Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Those trials that we endure will be for our own good. In the eternal perspective, mortality is just a breath in the life of eternity. Yet the decisions that are made here will affect us forever. The lessons that we learn will prepare us for the next stage of eternity. As Wilford Woodruff said:
“There is no power beneath the heavens that can hinder, stop or destroy the progress of truth and the decrees of Almighty God. I want to have the Latter-day Saints understand these things. We are in the hands of God.”16
“Terrible” for Righteousness
As the Saints increase in righteousness, a significant transition will soon occur. The Lord has promised the righteous that they will strike the wicked with terror in the latter days. In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph, He said that the day would come in which “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.’”17 Elder Orson Hyde gave us greater insight into this scripture:
“What makes the people of Zion terrible? Answer: Strict honesty and integrity before God. That is what will bring the ‘cloud by day and the shining of a flame of fire by night; and upon all the glory there shall be a defense’ [Isaiah 4:5].”18
In a later discourse, Orson F. Whitney expanded further on this subject, explaining that the righteousness of the Saints would bring them great power in the last days:
“Terrible, for what? For bayonets, for cannon, for the sword? No. Terrible for their righteousness. We are told that ‘the righteous are bold as a lion,’ while ‘the wicked flee when no man pursueth’ [Proverbs 28:1]. No, it is not by means of carnal weapons, nor by wealth, nor by the power of the arm of flesh that God’s people will be preserved, but it will be by fasting and prayer, by faith and good works, by the practice of principles of virtue and truth, by shaking ourselves free from the trammels and shackles of sin, of selfishness, of fraud, of deception, of crookedness and hypocrisy, of error and evil in all their forms.
“This is what will make the people powerful; they will be a terror to the ungodly by reason of their righteousness, and God will fight their battles. He will thunder from the heights of Zion with the artillery of His Holy Spirit; with that power He will thresh the nations; by the words of His mouth will He cause the earth to tremble, and by the breath of His lips will He slay the wicked.
“You need not fear that God will call upon you to fight the battles of Zion. He will fight them in His own way.”19
The fear that the wicked will feel at the power of the righteous is the same fear that will be felt by the wicked at the Second Coming, when the power of the Lord’s righteousness and glory will strike the unrighteous with terror:
“For when the Lord shall appear He shall be terrible unto them, that fear may seize upon them, and they shall stand afar off and tremble. And all nations shall be afraid because of the terror of the Lord, and the power of His might.”20
The Wicked Will Be Destroyed by Fire
The Lord has told us that the last days will be difficult, but He promised that He would watch over the Saints and be with them in their trials. He even said that He would destroy the enemies of the righteous by fire:
“I have sworn in my wrath, and decreed wars upon the face of the earth, and the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man; and the Saints also shall hardly escape; nevertheless, I, the Lord, am with them, and will come down in heaven from the presence of my Father and consume the wicked with unquenchable fire.”21
When the brothers of Nephi asked him about the many things that he had seen in vision concerning the last days, he left us an important promise:
“Wherefore, He will preserve the righteous by His power, even if it so be that the fullness of His wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire.”22
Later, as Nephi was concluding his writings in the Book of Mormon, he repeated this prophecy once again:
“The Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will He destroy; and He will spare His people, yea, even if it so be that He must destroy the wicked by fire.”23
Preparing for the Protective Powers from Heaven
In order for the Saints of God to strike the wicked with terror, we will need to purify our lives and attain a high degree of righteousness. Then the protective powers from heaven will surround us like a cloud of fire, as Isaiah prophesied:
“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.”24
The prophets in our dispensation have been asking the Saints to continue to improve their lives so that we can be worthy of these blessings. President Wilford Woodruff challenged the members of the Church in his day:
“My brethren and sisters, prepare for that which is to come. You have a great future before you. There is a change coming over the world with regard to Zion. The day is coming when the world will say, ‘Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand’ [D&C 45:70]. They will find that the power of God is with this people. We want to prepare ourselves for this, and sanctify ourselves before the Lord that we may be prepared to carry out our mission.”25
President Brigham Young also taught us that we must prepare ourselves not only spiritually by living righteously, but we must also prepare ourselves both physically and mentally:
“We all believe that the Lord will fight our battles; but how? Will He do it while we are unconcerned and make no effort whatever for our own safety when an enemy is upon us? If we make no efforts to guard our towns, our houses, our cities, our wives and children, will the Lord guard them for us? He will not; but if we pursue the opposite course and strive to help Him to accomplish His designs, then will He fight our battles. . . .
“The Lord requires us to be quite as willing to fight our own battles as to have Him fight them for us. If we are not ready for an enemy when he comes upon us, we have not lived up to the requirements of Him who guides the ship of Zion, or who dictates the affairs of His kingdom.”26
The Lord Has Promised to Help the Righteous
Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord has promised us: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”27
These promising words of reassurance can also be found in the third verse of the powerful hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.” The Lord will strengthen us, give us power and calm our worries, if we will ask Him in a spirit of humility. Through Him we can find hope and peace.
As the Saints pass through the trials of the latter days, and as the Church traverses a period of intensified persecution, the Church and its members will be purified and cleansed. As we will see in the next chapter, the prophets have spoken of this momentous event since the days of Moses.
1 . D&C 82:10.
2 . Heber C. Kimball, April 6, 1857, Journal of Discourses 5:19-20; emphasis added.
3 . Heber C. Kimball, July 5, 1857, Journal of Discourses 5:11; emphasis added.
4 . Heber C. Kimball, December 16, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:257.
5 . Brigham Young, July 8, 1855, Journal of Discourses 2:311.
6 . Comprehensive History of the Church 4:181-447.
7 . Brigham Young, May 22, 1859, Journal of Discourses 7:143.
8 . G. Homer Durham, ed., The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990), p. 230.
9 . Wilford Woodruff, June 26, 1881, Journal of Discourses 22:233; emphasis added.
10 . 3 Nephi 21:20-21; see also Micah 5:7-15.
11 . 3 Nephi 21:22-25.
12 . History of the Church 4:11.
13 . History of the Church 4:553; The Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 326; Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1972), pp. 95-106; Brigham Young, July 28, 1861, Journal of Discourses 9:142.
14 . 2 Nephi 9:6.
15 . Heber C. Kimball, June 29, 1856, Journal of Discourses 4:6.
16 . Wilford Woodruff, October 23, 1881, Journal of Discourses 22:346.
17 . D&C 45:70; emphasis added.
18 . Orson Hyde, November 15, 1857, Journal of Discourses 6:59.
19 . Orson F. Whitney, "Zion and Her Redemption," September 22, 1889, Deseret News Weekly 40:73-79, in Brian H. Stuy, ed., Collected Discourses, volume 1, (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987).
20 . D&C 45:74-75.
21 . D&C 63:33-34.
22 . 1 Nephi 22:17; emphasis added.
23 . 2 Nephi 30:10.
24 . Isaiah 4:5.
25 . Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p. 167.
26 . Brigham Young, summary of instructions given August 1-10, 1865, Journal of Discourses 11:131.
27 . Isaiah 41:10.