Chapter 18: Famine and Wars Spread Across the Land

Famine will spread over the nations, and nation will rise up against nation.1

The magnitude of prophecies concerning the destruction of the wicked is truly overwhelming. The prophets have told us that when these prophecies are fulfilled, the righteous will mourn for those who are destroyed. It will cause their hearts to ache within them when they learn of this tragic loss of human life.2

If the wicked would only humble themselves and follow the Lord, they would not receive these catastrophic judgments. But unfortunately, they will seal their own fate and doom when they obstinately refuse to repent. As President Wilford Woodruff said:

“When I contemplate the condition of our nation, . . . 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 . . . 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.”3

Famines of Epic Proportions Will Decimate the Wicked

According to the words of the prophets, one of the Lord’s judgments against the wicked will be a devastating famine that will spread across the land.4 As this happens, dissension and war will break out among the starving masses of people, and society will quickly disintegrate into disorder and chaos.5 Fortunately, the prophets have given us the warning signs of this famine before it occurs.

The Prophet Joseph warned the Saints on two different occasions that when a rainbow cannot be seen in the sky, it is a sign that a severe famine is approaching:

“The Lord hath set the bow in the cloud for a sign that while it shall be seen, seed time and harvest, summer and winter shall not fail; but when it shall disappear, woe to that generation, for behold the end cometh quickly.”6

“I have asked of the Lord concerning His coming; and while asking the Lord, He gave a sign and said, ‘In the days of Noah I set a bow in the heavens as a sign and token that in any year that the bow should be seen the Lord would not come; but there should be seed time and harvest during that year: but whenever you see the bow withdrawn, it shall be a token that there shall be famine, pestilence, and great distress among the nations, and that the coming of the Messiah is not far distant.’”7

When rainbows are no longer seen in the sky, the righteous will know of the fate that will soon be upon the nations. The sign of a missing rainbow could occur because sunlight is blocked from reaching the earth’s surface in some way (debris and soot in the atmosphere,8 darkening of the sun, etc.), from a lack of clouds and moisture, or it might happen by a change in the meteorological properties of rainbows brought about by the Lord. No matter how it occurs, it will serve as a warning to those who will heed it.

Heber C. Kimball warned the Saints on several occasions that this famine would be so severe that it would even affect the righteous:

“As I have said, I know that we will see those things of which I have spoken---such famines as this world never beheld. Yes, we have got to see those scenes; but if we will keep our vows and covenants, the Lord will hold them off until we can prepare ourselves; and if you will wake up and do as you are told, you will escape."9

“For you will see a day when you will want it [food storage]; and it will be when we shall feel the effects of famine, and when the United States have not any food.”10

“With regard to grain, I will say, if you do not lay it up and keep it, you will be sorry in a day to come; for you will see hard times, trying times, plagues, and famines, and bloodshed. Be advised and provide in time, and while you have the opportunity.”11

The prophets have asked the Saints to prepare themselves for these events. We will not only need to sustain our own families, but many others who will flee to the Saints when famine and war have filled the land, and thousands are forced to flee for bread and safety. As Heber C. Kimball told the Saints:

“Lay up your stores, and take your silks and fine things, and exchange them for grain and such things as you need, and 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. . . .

“The day will come when the people of the United States will come lugging their bundles under their arms, coming to us for bread to eat. Every prophet has spoken of this from the early ages of the world.”12

“There will be millions on millions that will come much in the same way, only they will not have handcarts, for they will take their bundles under their arms, and their children on their backs, and under their arms, and flee; and Zion’s people will have to send out relief to them, for they will come when the judgments come on the nations.”13

“Upon My House Shall It Begin”

Unfortunately, the wicked are not the only ones who will be affected when God begins to unleash His wrath in the last days. The judgments of God will actually begin in a most unexpected location.

The Lord has warned the Saints in two latter-day revelations that if they are not careful, His judgments of the last days will begin first among the members of the Church. He has promised to cleanse the earth in the latter days by destroying the wicked, and He will begin by destroying the wicked within the Church:

“Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth.

“And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord; first among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.”14

“Nevertheless, Zion shall escape if she observe to do all things whatsoever I have commanded her. But if she observe not to do whatsoever I have commanded her, I will visit her according to all her works, with sore affliction, with pestilence, with plague, with sword, with vengeance, with devouring fire.”15

President Brigham Young also told us that the Savior will cleanse the kingdom of God in preparation for His Return: 

“When He again visits this earth, He will come to thoroughly purge His kingdom from wickedness.”16

Heber C. Kimball warned the Saints that famines are likely to strike the Saints first, and unless they are prepared, they will suffer the consequences when the grocery stores and warehouses are stripped of their contents and food cannot be found anywhere:

“When the famines begin upon the earth, we shall be very apt to feel them first. If judgments must need begin at the house of God, and if the righteous scarcely are saved, how will it be with the wicked? Am I looking for famines? Yes, the most terrible and severe that have ever come upon the nations of the earth.”17

The Saints do not need to be caught unprepared by these cataclysmic events. Heber C. Kimball admonished the Saints to repent and change their lives and attitudes so that they will be ready for the judgments of God in the last days:

“You will find that judgments will be more sore upon this people if they do not repent and lay aside their pride and their animosities, their quarreling and contentions, their disputations among themselves.”18

The Preservation of the Righteous

The Lord has promised through His prophets that He will watch over the Saints during these times of famine, if they will do what is right. Both President Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball told the Saints:

“I have never promised a famine to the Latter-day Saints, if we will do half right. You have never heard it drop from my lips that a famine would come upon this people. There never will, if we will only do half right, and we expect to do better than that.”19

“We will not flinch; and God will bless and prosper every man that will help himself; and He will bless, prosper, and sustain this people; and they will never fall, as a people, though we expect that many will apostatize, pitch over the dam, and go to wreck. If we sin, and do not repent, God will chastise us until we do repent of and forsake all sin; but He never will scourge us so long as we do right.

“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.”20

“If we live our religion, we shall never suffer as the world suffers. We shall not be perplexed with famine and pestilence, with the caterpillar, and other destructive insects, which the Lord will send in the last days to afflict the wicked.

“God will sustain us, if we will sustain Him and be His friends. But how can you be His friends, except you are friends to His cause and to His servants? You cannot find favor with your God while you are opposed to His authority, or to the ordinances and regulations of His house.”21
If we are prepared for these times of famine and other difficulties, we will have no reason to fear the events of the last days.22 We will be able to overcome any difficulty that is placed before us, through the Lord’s help.

A Great Hailstorm Will Destroy the Crops of the Earth

According to the Lord and His prophets, a massive hailstorm will cause extensive damage throughout the world in the last days. This hailstorm will then result in a famine upon the earth. In September 1830, the Lord told the Prophet Joseph that “there shall be a great hailstorm sent forth to destroy the crops of the earth.”23 Additional details about this hailstorm were also shown in vision to the Apostle John, who reported:

“And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.”24

Mankind has never seen a hailstorm of this magnitude. A talent weighs approximately 75 to 100 pounds, and hailstones of this unprecedented size would do catastrophic damage wherever they landed. While this scripture could be referring to an epic hailstorm that is formed by a weather front containing torrential thunderstorms and gigantic super cells, it is more likely that this prophecy could be describing an asteroid shower.

If a large asteroid were to break into many smaller pieces as it is drawn apart by the gravitational pull of a secondary body, it would pepper the ground with a wave of stones, which would sweep across the earth as it rotated on its axis.

Something similar to this happened in our solar system in July 1994 when the Shoemaker-Levy meteor broke into more than 20 pieces and the fragments then struck Jupiter, one after another for six days in a row. Astronomers were amazed at the force of the impacts and the damage that was apparent in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere for many months afterwards.25

This Great Famine Will Then Result in War

According to President Brigham Young, when these famines begin to spread across the land, they will cause the masses of starving people to go to war. An empty stomach has often caused men and women to do desperate things. A hungry populace will often resort to violence to end their starvation. President Young said:

“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.”26

Just as famine leads to war, the reverse is also true---war can result in famine. When farmers are not able to plant their seeds and harvest their crops because of the atrocities of war, no food is produced. In addition, marauding armies can often destroy the facilities that store and produce food. As Orson Pratt prophesied:

“It will be a war of neighborhood against neighborhood, city against city, town against town, county against county, state against state, and they will go forth destroying and being destroyed and manufacturing will, in a great measure, cease, for a time, among the American nation. Why? Because in these terrible wars, they will not be privileged to manufacture, there will be too much bloodshed, too much mobocracy, too much going forth in bands and destroying and pillaging the land to suffer people to pursue any local vocation with any degree of safety.

“What will become of millions of the farmers upon that land? They will leave their farms and they will remain uncultivated, and they will flee before the ravaging armies from place to place.”27

These famines and wars will be a time of great sorrow for the wicked. The Lord told the Prophet Joseph that these traumatic events are intended to bring about the end of the rule of wicked men:

“And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations.”28

As the governance of wicked men comes to an end and the nations disintegrate into chaos, the political Kingdom of God will be able to spread throughout the earth to help assist and govern the people in righteousness and peace.

The destruction of the wicked will decimate and empty their cities, which, as we will see in the next chapter, will help to fulfill a special purpose of the Lord. 

Chapter Footnotes

1 . Brigham Young, July 15, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:123.
2 . Brigham Young, July 15, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:123; John Taylor, December 31, 1876, Journal of Discourses 18:332; John Taylor, October 6, 1879, Journal of Discourses 20:318; John Taylor, June 18, 1883, Journal of Discourses 24:200.
3 . Wilford Woodruff, August 1, 1880, Journal of Discourses 21:301.
4 . D&C 29:16, 87:6; Joseph Smith---History 1:45; History of the Church 1:315, 6:254; Heber C. Kimball, May 31, 1857, Journal of Discourses 4:330.
5 . Joseph Smith---History 1:45; Brigham Young, July 15, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:123.
6 . History of the Church 5:402.
7 . History of the Church 6:254.
8 . Joel prophesied of a “day of darkness and of gloominess” caused by the pollution of war. See Joel 2:2, 10.
9 . Heber C. Kimball, April 6, 1857, Journal of Discourses 5:21; emphasis added.
10 . Heber C. Kimball, May 31, 1857, Journal of Discourses 4:330.
11 . Heber C. Kimball, August 28, 1859, Journal of Discourses 7:234.
12 . Heber C. Kimball, July 5, 1857, Journal of Discourses 5:10.
13 . Heber C. Kimball, September 28, 1856, Journal of Discourses 4:106.
14 . D&C 112:24-26; emphasis added.
15 . D&C 97:25-26; emphasis added.
16 . Brigham Young, July 8, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:115.
17 . Heber C. Kimball, April 6, 1857, Journal of Discourses 5:20; emphasis added.
18 . Heber C. Kimball, September 28, 1856, Journal of Discourses 4:106.
19 . Brigham Young, July 25, 1868, Journal of Discourses 12:241-242.
20 . Heber C. Kimball, April 6, 1857, Journal of Discourses 5:19-20.
21 . Heber C. Kimball, October 7, 1859, Journal of Discourses 7:331.
22 . D&C 38:30.
23 . D&C 29:16.
24 . Revelation 16:21; emphasis added.
25 . Ron Cowen, “By Jupiter! Comet crashes dazzle and delight,” Science News, July 23, 1994; J. Kelly Beatty and Stuart J. Goldman, “The Great Crash of 1994,” Sky & Telescope, October 1994, pp. 18-23.
26 . Brigham Young, July 15, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:123.
27 . Orson Pratt, March 9, 1879, Journal of Discourses 20:151.
28 . D&C 87:6; emphasis added.