Chapter 3: The Persecution of the Saints

This Church has before it many close places through which you will have to pass, before the work of God is crowned with victory.1


It is a simple truth that the righteous are often persecuted by the wicked. It seems to be a common experience here in mortality. In the scriptures we find many faith-promoting stories about the prophets of God, and the persecution that they faced when they preached the gospel of repentance to the wicked. Enoch, Noah, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nephi, Alma, Amulek, Samuel, Paul, Joseph and many other great prophets and missionaries of God learned to rise above the adversity and persecution they experienced, leaving us a powerful legacy of faithfulness and patience in adversity.


According to the scriptures and modern prophets, the persecution of the righteous in the latter days will continue to rise in crescendo until it reaches an apex. God has promised that He will then come forth in His wrath and destroy the wicked.2


The Lord has revealed to His prophets many important details about this future period of persecution: how it will affect the Saints, when it is likely to begin, and how the Saints will be watched over during this time of trial.


Persecution Will Increase Throughout the World


Ever since the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, persecution has been waged against the Church and its members. Many of the early Saints in New York, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Europe and Utah were persecuted because of their beliefs, and some of them paid the ultimate price when their lives were taken by their persecutors.


All of those who faithfully persevered in persecution have been promised eternal glories that are impossible for the mortal mind to comprehend. They will be resurrected and join with the Savior in clouds of light and glory at His Return.3 They will inherit peace and joy during the Millennium while the wicked suffer for their sins in spirit prison for a thousand years.4


But the days of persecution and trials for the Saints are not yet over. The prophet Nephi was shown in vision that the persecution of the righteous will increase in intensity in the last days.


After his father, Lehi, had seen the vision of the tree of life, Nephi petitioned the Lord to be shown the same vision.5 In answer to his prayers, the Lord took Nephi to a high mountain top where he was shown a comprehensive, sequential vision of the latter days by an angel of God. The vision contained detailed information about the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, the founding of the United States, the Revolutionary War and the Restoration of the Church.6


In the latter part of Nephi’s vision, he gave us a significant warning when he reported:


“And it came to pass that I beheld that the great mother of abominations did gather together multitudes upon the face of all the earth, among all the nations of the Gentiles, to fight against the Lamb of God. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the Saints of the Church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.”7


Shortly after Nephi was shown this important event, the angel told him that he would not be allowed to record the concluding part of the vision, since this task had been assigned to John the Revelator.8 When we turn to the revelation given to the Apostle John, we learn that he not only saw the persecution of the Saints, but he also saw that their wicked persecutors will eventually be destroyed. John recorded:


“And it was given unto him [the beast or Satan] to make war with the Saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”9


Later, John saw that this time of persecution will come to an end when the wicked are destroyed and Satan loses his grip upon the nations of men:


“These [the wicked nations] shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings.”10


“And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image . . . the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.”11


As the wicked nations are destroyed and decimated by the Lord God, they will no longer be able to persecute the righteous. In fact, it is the persecution of the righteous that will fill the wicked’s cup of iniquity and bring about their destruction. The Lord has promised, “I will take vengeance upon the wicked, for they will not repent; for the cup of mine indignation is full.”12


Modern Prophets Have Warned of Increased Persecution

In addition to these words from ancient prophets, we can also find warnings from modern prophets of this period of persecution that the Saints will pass through. Heber C. Kimball, who served in the First Presidency as first counselor to President Brigham Young, was often filled with the prophecies of God. Many of his prophecies to the early Saints have already come to pass.13 Heber C. Kimball had a firm conviction that the persecution of the Saints will increase as the kingdom of God grows in power and strength. We can begin to see the fulfillment of his prophetic words in the world today:


“The work of God is bound to increase, and just in that proportion will the devil’s kingdom rise in power and strength, and walk up to battle against us. The adversary is bent on having a war with this people, we shall have him right by the side of us, and you will find that he will keep you very busy, if you strive to come off victorious.”14


President Brigham Young also prophesied that the wicked will turn against the righteous, and he gave us additional insight into the scope of the persecution that the prophet Nephi and the Apostle John were shown in vision:


“We need not think that we are always going to be unmolested by the efforts of mobs, until wickedness is swept from this earth. If we live, we shall see the nations of the earth arrayed against this people; for that time must come, in fulfillment of prophecy. Tell about war commencing! Bitter and relentless war was waged against Joseph Smith before he had received the plates of the Book of Mormon; and from that time till now the wicked have only fallen back at times to gain strength and learn how to attack the kingdom of God.”15


The leaders of the wicked nations will also participate in this persecution. In the early history of the Church, government officials were often involved in the persecution of the Saints, and secretly encouraged the mobs in their nefarious activities.16 Heber C. Kimball warned that this pattern will continue in the last days:


“If we should wait for the rotten-hearted kings and queens of the wicked nations to gather us home, we shall have to wait a long time. . . . Many of them will yet drive the Saints from their lands and homes, just as the wicked have driven us from the United States into these mountains of Deseret.”17


When Can We Expect This Period of Persecution?


Modern prophets have also told us when this period of increased persecution is likely to occur. Heber C. Kimball predicted that the time of the persecution of the Church will occur when the mountain valleys in the western United States are filled with both the righteous and the wicked. He said:


“The time is coming when we will be mixed up in these now peaceful valleys to the extent that it will be difficult to tell the face of a Saint from the face of an enemy to the people of God. Then, brethren, look out for the great sieve, for there will come a great sifting time, and many will fall. For I say unto you there is a test, a test, a TEST coming, and who will be able to stand?. . . This Church has before it many close places through which you will have to pass, before the work of God is crowned with victory.”18


In 1847, when the Saints first arrived in the desolate region of the Great Basin, they were the only settlers in the area for many years, and the communities that they established were predominantly filled with Latter-day Saints. But today, the valleys of the West now contain both the righteous and the wicked. The fulfillment of these prophecies is clearly imminent. Heber C. Kimball also warned the Saints:


“There will also be a day when you will be brought to the test---when your very hearts and your inmost souls will melt within you because of the scenes that many of you will witness. Yes, you will be brought to that test, when you will feel as if everything within you would dissolve. Then will be the time you will be tried whether you will stand the test or fall away. I have not a doubt but there will be hundreds who will leave us and go away to our enemies.”19


The Lord Will Watch Over the Saints in Their Trials


George Q. Cannon, who served as first counselor to Presidents John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff and Lorenzo Snow, also spoke about the opposition that the Church will face before the Second Coming, and about his unshakable faith that the Church will be watched over and protected during these times of adversity. He said:


“Every kind of opposition will be brought against this work. There is nothing that you can conceive of that will be kept back, and it will come upon us as fast as we are able to bear it. It is only the power of God that restrains our enemies from overwhelming us. . . . But it will not be without a mighty warfare, the hostility against this work will be continuous. No man need calculate on anything else. . . .


There are legions of angels around us. . . . It is a cause of amazement how we are delivered from time to time, so few in numbers, and so hated as we are. . . . But this work of our God will go forth, despite all the opposition that will be brought against it. It will win, because it is true.”20


Commerce with Babylon Will Cease


As the persecution of the Saints increases, the wicked will eventually terminate all commerce with the righteous.21 The righteous will not be allowed to buy from or sell to the wicked. This will be a time of testing and trial, and the Saints will need to prepare themselves to live independent of Babylon.


John the Revelator prophesied of this event, and he said that the righteous who will not take a mark upon themselves will be unable to conduct any business with the wicked. He warned that the wicked will cause “all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark.”22


This mark is not just an innocent label. As judgments are later poured out upon the wicked, an angel of destruction tells John:


“If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.


“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.”23


President Brigham Young also prophesied that the day would come when the Saints would be cut off from the world, and he warned us:


“By and by there will be a gulf between the righteous and the wicked so that they cannot trade with each other, and national intercourse will cease. It is not so now, they can pass from one to the other with ease. But if this is the kingdom of God and if we are the Saints of God---I leave you all to judge for yourselves about this---are we not required to sustain ourselves and to manufacture that which we consume, to cease our bartering, trading, mingling, drinking, smoking, chewing and joining with all the filth of Babylon?”24


The Lord expects the Saints to rise above the world, and eventually, He wants them to stand completely free of Babylon. He told the Prophet Joseph that His objective is “that the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world.”25


When the wicked refuse to do business with the righteous, the Saints will need to stand on their own, independent of the world. The Church and its members will then be free of the influence of Babylon.26


Heber C. Kimball warned the Saints:


“The time will come when we will be obliged to depend upon our own resources; for the time is not far distant when the curtain will be dropped between us and the United States.”27


The Lord has a special purpose for this period of persecution that will affect the Saints. As we will see in the next chapter, it is important for the Saints to know how to respond to this persecution, and to understand what the Lord will accomplish by means of this persecution from the wicked.

Chapter Footnotes

1 . Orson F. Whitney, The Life of Heber C. Kimball, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1945), pp. 449-450.
2 . Daniel 7:21, 25; Revelation 6:9-11, 12:17, 13:7; 1 Nephi 14:13.
3 . D&C 88:97-98.
4 . D&C 88:100-102; Brother Joseph, pp. 350-353.
5 . 1 Nephi 11:1.
6 . 1 Nephi, chapters 12-14.
7 . 1 Nephi 14:13-14; emphasis added.
8 . 1 Nephi 14:18-28.
9 . Revelation 13:7-8; emphasis added.
10 . Revelation 17:14; emphasis added.
11 . Revelation 14:8-10.
12 . D&C 29:17.
13 . The Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 392.
14 . Heber C. Kimball, June 29, 1856, Journal of Discourses 4:6.
15 . Brigham Young, October 18, 1857, Journal of Discourses 5:339.
16 . Brother Joseph, p. 474.
17 . Heber C. Kimball, February 17, 1861, Journal of Discourses 8:349; emphasis added.
18 . The Life of Heber C. Kimball, pp. 446, 450.
19 . Heber C. Kimball, August 16, 1857, Journal of Discourses 4:375.
20 . George Q. Cannon, January 6, 1884, Journal of Discourses 25:27-28; emphasis added.
21 . Revelation 13:15-16; Brigham Young, October 8, 1868, Journal of Discourses 12:283; Heber C. Kimball, July 5, 1857, Journal of Discourses 5:10.
22 . Revelation 13:15-16.
23 . Revelation 14:9-11.
24 . Brigham Young, October 8, 1868, Journal of Discourses 12:283.
25 . D&C 78:14.
26 . Revelation 13:15-16.
27 . Heber C. Kimball, July 5, 1857, Journal of Discourses 5:10.