Chapter 16: Signs of Impending Destruction

God will gather out His Saints from the Gentiles, and then comes desolation and destruction.1

When the Lord finally unleashes the angels of destruction upon the unrighteous, it will be the beginning of the end of the wicked world. Over 6,000 years of rule by evil and immoral men will start to come to a close. As the wrath of God rolls forth until the wicked are consumed, it will fulfill two purposes of the Lord: it will avenge the righteous Saints who have been persecuted and slain,2 and it will cleanse the earth of all wickedness in preparation for His Return and the Millennium.3

The Lord does not delight in destroying these wicked people---He wishes instead that they would repent and rid themselves of their sins through the power of the Atonement.4 But when they won’t repent, their wickedness can grow to the point that it corrupts the rising generation. When the youth in these wicked societies are unable to listen to the Spirit as they mature, they quickly become jaded and spiritually numb, and they will obstinately refuse to repent or humble themselves. It is then in the best interest of everyone for the Lord to cleanse the land by destroying the entire nation that has ripened in iniquity, just as the children of Israel were commanded to destroy every living soul in some of the wicked nations when they first entered the land of Canaan.5

The Lord has revealed to His prophets many details about how He will destroy the wicked nations in the latter days, and He has given us the signs that will indicate that their destruction is near. He has also told us some of the preliminary events that must take place before the destruction of the wicked can occur.

The Righteous Will Flee the Wicked Cities

The prophets have told us that before the wicked cities are destroyed, the righteous will begin to flee these cities of iniquity for the safety of Zion. Undoubtedly this flight will begin when many of the righteous are persecuted and they are treated with greater hostility by the wicked. During the Savior’s mortal ministry, He described the events of the latter days to His disciples, and He said that the Saints would need to flee from these cities of wickedness:

“But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.”6

In modern times the Prophet Joseph has prophesied that the Saints will be gathered from the cities of the wicked before these cities are destroyed. On Monday, April 21, 1834, he told the Saints at a conference of the Church:

“Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none; for without Zion, and a place of deliverance, we must fall; because the time is near when the sun will be darkened, and the moon turn to blood, and the stars fall from heaven, and the earth reel to and fro. Then, if this is the case, and if we are not sanctified and gathered to the places God has appointed, with all our former professions and our great love for the Bible, we must fall; we cannot stand; we cannot be saved; for God will gather out His Saints from the Gentiles, and then comes desolation and destruction, and none can escape except the pure in heart who are gathered.7

When the Twelve Apostles were first called in 1835, the Prophet Joseph instructed them concerning their new duties. As he was teaching them, he gave them an important prophecy. He told them:

“You must faithfully warn all, and bind up the testimony, and seal up the law, and the destroying angel will follow close at your heels, and exercise his tremendous mission upon the children of disobedience; and destroy the workers of iniquity, while the Saints will be gathered out from among them, and stand in holy places ready to meet the Bridegroom when He comes.”8

It was only a few years after this prophecy was given that the Prophet Joseph was shown a vision of the destruction of the wicked. This vision was so terrible and horrifying that he asked the Lord to close the vision because he was sickened and nauseated.9 When Joseph later described this vision to the Saints in Nauvoo, he told them that awful atrocities and destructions will come as the righteous flee from the wicked cities:

“I saw men hunting the lives of their own sons, and brother murdering brother, women killing their own daughters, and daughters seeking the lives of their mothers. I saw armies arrayed against armies. I saw blood, desolation, fires. The Son of Man has said that the mother shall be against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother. These things are at our doors. They will follow the Saints of God from city to city.”10

In this same discourse the Prophet gave the Saints another important warning:

“There will be here and there a stake [of Zion] for the gathering of the Saints. Some may have cried peace, but the Saints and the world will have little peace from henceforth. Let this not hinder us from going to the stakes; for God has told us to flee, not dallying, or we shall be scattered, one here, and another there. There your children shall be blessed, and you in the midst of friends where you may be blessed. The gospel net gathers of every kind.

“I prophesy that that man who tarries after he has an opportunity of going will be afflicted by the devil. Wars are at hand; we must not delay; but are not required to sacrifice. We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object. When wars come, we shall have to flee to Zion. The cry is to make haste.”11

Heber C. Kimball also prophesied that destructions would befall the wicked after the righteous have gathered out from among the iniquitous cities:

“So it will be eventually in the United States. After the truth [i.e. the righteous] is all gathered out, you will find that the rest will be destroyed. I do not mean that the land will be destroyed, but I refer to the wicked inhabitants, and the earth will be emptied, according to the words of the Prophet. Why will this be so? Because there are no saving principles there: the saving principles are with this Church, and there is no salvation in the absence of those principles.”12

John Taylor testified that it had been revealed to him that the destruction of the wicked will occur after the Saints have left the cities of unrighteousness:

“[The Lord] will gather His people in one, even all things He will gather together in one, whether they be things that are in heaven or things on the earth; and the powers and priesthood of heaven will unite with the priesthood on the earth for the accomplishment of this purpose. . . .

“When the people shall have been gathered in fulfillment of this prophecy, judgments will again be visited upon the wicked, as a necessary consequence. Will such visitations really take place? Yes, I know that this part, too, of the Lord’s designs will be fulfilled, for God revealed it to me long, long ago.”13

The Saints Will Be Led by Inspired Church Leaders and They Will Be Guided by the Holy Spirit

As the Prophet Joseph has warned, it is important in the latter days for us to stay close to the leadership of the Church, and to carefully heed their counsel. Elder Boyd K. Packer has stated in recent times, “If there is to be any gathering, it will be announced by those who have been regularly ordained and who are known to the Church and have authority.”14

In addition to following the counsel of wise Church leaders, it is essential for our spiritual and physical well-being in the last days that we follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The still, small voice guides us in pathways of safety. He buoys us up in the trials and difficulties that we will encounter in the last days. He helps us to discern and determine the correct choices we should make, so that we will not be deceived. As President Ezra Taft Benson counseled us:

“Heed the Lord’s counsel to the Saints of this dispensation: ‘Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord’ (D&C 133:10). This preparation must consist of more than just casual membership in the Church. You must learn to be guided by personal revelation and the counsel of the living prophet so you will not be deceived.”15

Weakness in the Government

One of the initial signs that the wicked will soon be destroyed can be found in the state of the nation in which they live, and the moral strength of their national leaders. When the government is morally weak, it is liable to crumble under the weight of its lies and deception. President Brigham Young prophesied that the government of the United States would someday become so weak that it would be unable to defend itself:

“Will famine come? Yes! Will plagues come? Yes! Will distress come upon the nations? Yes, and upon this nation, and that, too, before a great while. . . . Is there power enough in the federal government to put down mobocracy? No! And it is a truth that they whom the Lord makes weak are weak indeed; and those whom the Lord makes strong are strong indeed. Strength was given to the North in the last struggle [of the Civil War], and the South suffered extremely. But the time will come when the North will be weaker than the South was, and they will have no power to muster their forces against the tide of folly that will come upon them, that they bring upon themselves, and they themselves must receive the results.”16

The people will bring this tragedy of a weakened government upon themselves as a natural consequence of their wickedness. The wicked are morally weak, and this weakness soon permeates the society so that their nation becomes indecisive and timid in the eyes of other nations. Their strength is dissipated, wasted in the moral incertitude of sin. We can see this prophecy beginning to be fulfilled today in the United States with the inability of national leaders to make correct decisions for fear that they will appear to be intolerant. The government has become increasingly weak and frail in leading the people with truth and moral correctness. What was once a strong republic has devolved into a confused democracy.

In studying the rise and fall of nations throughout world history, it quickly becomes apparent that the downfall of a nation is a process of natural progression, as wickedness and corruption from within soon propagate and infect the whole society.17 President Young insightfully explained how God can bring about a nation’s downfall, and it is frightening to see this process well under way in many nations of the world today:

“When the Supreme Ruler of the universe wishes to destroy a nation, He takes away their wisdom in the first place, and they become insensible to their own interests, and they are filled with wrath; they give way to their anger, and thus lay the foundation of their own destruction. To him who seeks to save, He gives wisdom, which enables any people, nation, or individual to lay the foundation for strength, increase, and power.”18

The process of disintegration that the Lord uses to destroy a nation is the end result of a lifestyle of wickedness. First, a nation loses its national wisdom. The moral founding principles upon which it was founded are ignored, misunderstood, lost and forgotten. The people do not want to remember and uphold these moral principles because it would remind them of their wickedness, and they would need to repent in order to bring their lives in line with the founding principles of the nation.

As the people lose their national founding principles, they are filled with wrath and confusion as they wonder what truths they really believe, and why they strive to survive as a nation. Unable to stand for anything, they stand for nothing. Their anger will increase as their lack of a national foundation becomes more and more obvious, and eventually this disunity and lack of direction will result in complete weakness and timidity. The wicked nation is then ripe for destruction, either from an outside force or from internal turmoil.

Such will be the fate of the unrighteous nations of the world.

Chapter Footnotes

1 . History of the Church 2:52.
2 . 2 Nephi 28:10; Ether 8:22; D&C 87:6-7; 136:35-36.
3 . D&C 29:9.
4 . D&C 29:17.
5 . Deuteronomy 20:16-18; Joshua 6:21.
6 . Matthew 10:23.
7 . History of the Church 2:52; emphasis added.
8 . History of the Church 2:309; emphasis added.
9 . Jedediah Grant, April 2, 1854, Journal of Discourses 2:147; Wilford Woodruff, June 26, 1881, Journal of Discourses 22:236.
10 . History of the Church 3:391; emphasis added.
11 . History of the Church 3:390; emphasis added.
12 . Heber C. Kimball, December 27, 1857, Journal of Discourses 6:185.
13 . John Taylor, December 31, 1876, Journal of Discourses 18:332.
14 . Boyd K. Packer, “To Be Learned is Good If . . . ,” Ensign, November 1992, p. 73.
15 . 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.
16 . Brigham Young, August 19, 1877, Journal of Discourses 19:96.
17 . The fall of Roman empire is a classic example of this. See Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
18 . Brigham Young, July 4, 1854, Journal of Discourses 7:10-11.