Chapter 19: The Desolation of Cities of the Wicked

Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour is thy judgment come.1

As the wicked are destroyed, their cities will soon become desolate, without a single inhabitant to fill the empty streets and houses. Some of the wicked cities will actually be destroyed, while other cities will be abandoned as the people search for food and security in other locations in the midst of the chaos.

On December 10, 1856, the First Presidency of the Church issued a general epistle to the Saints in the western United States. In this epistle, they spoke about the destruction that would be visited upon the wicked cities that would not repent:

“Their great and mighty nations, empires, and kingdoms, with all the pride, pomp and power thereof, will be broken and crumbled in pieces, and come to nought. Their cities will become a howling waste, a solitary place, wherein shall be found the wolf and the vulture, and no man shall be found an inhabitant therein.

“Yea, verily, He will empty the earth of the wicked, and those who work abominations in His sight, so shall the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ, so shall the Lord prepare the way for His coming, and reign upon the earth.”2

Orson Pratt also spoke of the destruction and desolation of the wicked cities in the last days:

“There are a great many cities in the United States that will not be totally destroyed when the inhabitants are swept off the surface of the earth. Their houses, their desolate cities will still remain unoccupied until Zion in her glory and strength shall enlarge the place of her tents, and stretch forth the curtains of her habitations. That is the destiny of this nation, and the destiny of the Latter-day Saints.”3

Isaiah prophesied that this annihilation of the wicked would occur, telling us that “many houses shall be desolate, and great and fair cities without inhabitant.”4 He repeated this prophecy not once, but six times in his writings.5 The Prophet Joseph Smith informed us that these empty cities would later be occupied by the lost tribes of Israel when they return. He prophesied in January 1833:

“And now I am prepared to say by the authority of Jesus Christ that not many years shall pass away before the United States shall present such a scene of bloodshed as has not a parallel in the history of our nation; pestilence, hail, famine, and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land, to open and prepare the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel from the north country.”6

When the ten tribes return to inhabit these empty cities, the Saints will rejoice to be blessed with the presence of their long lost brethren. They will rebuild these abandoned cities and inhabit the empty homes left by the wicked who were destroyed. They will turn these previously wicked locations into cities of righteousness. This will fulfill two beautiful prophecies that were given to Isaiah:

“Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.

“Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations; spare not, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left, and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.”7

“For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants; and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away.

“The children whom thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the first, shall again in thine ears say: ‘The place is too strait for me; give place to me that I may dwell.’

“Then shalt thou say in thine heart: ‘Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? And who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where have they been?’”8

As the ten tribes inhabit the desolated cities of the wicked, the Saints will be amazed at the large congregations of their brethren of the house of Israel. The descendants of Israel will rapidly fill these abandoned cities, and the sound of children, joy and laughter will be heard once again in the streets that had been empty and desolate.

The Prophesied Destruction of Certain Wicked Cities

While some of the cities will be abandoned by the wicked, other cities will actually be wiped off the surface of the earth by the Lord. It will be similar to the destruction of the Nephite cities at the time of the Savior’s crucifixion, when the Lord said that He did this “to hide their iniquities and their abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the Saints shall not come any more unto me against them.”9

The Prophet Joseph had the opportunity to visit New York City in October 1832 when he and his brethren were commanded by the Lord to go on a mission to preach to the people in Boston, Albany and New York City.10 He was deeply moved by this experience. He wrote a poignant letter to his wife, Emma, during this trip that shows the depth of his feelings at this time. In this letter, Joseph pondered on the destiny of the wicked, and as he did so, the Lord revealed to his mind why they would someday suffer the wrath of God:

“My dear wife,

“This day I have been walking through the most splendid parts of the city of New York. The buildings are truly great and wonderful to the astonishment of every beholder. And the language of my heart is like this: 'Can the great God of all the earth, maker of all things magnificent and splendid, be displeased with man for all these great inventions sought out by them?”

“My answer is, ‘No, it cannot be, seeing these works are calculated to make men comfortable, wise and happy.’ Therefore, not for the works can the Lord be displeased. Only against man is the anger of the Lord kindled, because they give Him not the glory. Therefore their iniquities shall be visited upon their heads, and their works shall be burned up with unquenchable fire.

“The iniquity of the people is printed in every countenance and nothing but the dress of the people makes them look fair and beautiful. All is deformity. There is something in every countenance that is disagreeable, with few exceptions. How long, O Lord, shall this order of things exist and darkness cover the earth and gross darkness cover the people?

“After beholding all that I had any desire to behold, I returned to my room to meditate and calm my mind. And behold the thoughts of home, of Emma and Julia [his seventeen-month-old daughter], rush upon my mind like a flood and I could wish for a moment to be with them. My breast is filled with all the feelings and tenderness of a parent and husband. And could I be with you, I would tell you many things.”11

Years later when Emmeline B. Wells was serving as general president of the Relief Society, she commented in the Relief Society Magazine about this mission to New York City by the Prophet Joseph Smith and Bishop Newel K. Whitney. Bishop Whitney told her of a singular experience that occurred while they were there. She said:

“They were in the city of New York, staying at a hotel. They were staying on the third floor---that was as high as the houses were in New York at that time. Newel K. Whitney with the Prophet looked over unto Long Island Sound and the ocean, and he said to Newel K. Whitney, ‘This city will yet be destroyed. There will not be one stone left upon another to tell where it stood.’”12

The destruction of New York City and other cities of wickedness can also be found in other prophetic writings. The Apostle John recorded in the Book of Revelation that the cities of iniquity will be laid in ruins, and this will cause the kings and merchants to mourn their loss:

“Therefore shall her [Babylon’s] plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.

“And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour is thy judgment come.’ And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more.”13

Wilford Woodruff also prophesied of the destruction of the wicked cities in the United States, and he described how it will occur. It was in 1863 that President Young and the brethren visited the Saints in Logan. As Wilford Woodruff arose to speak, he addressed his comments to the youth in attendance. He prophesied that a temple would be built in Logan, which was later fulfilled, and he predicted many other important things that would occur.14 He then said that they would remember this day in which the brethren had visited them:

“You will say: ‘That was in the days when Presidents [Ezra T.] Benson and [Peter] Maughan presided over us; that was before New York was destroyed by an earthquake; it was before Boston was swept into the sea, by the sea heaving itself beyond its bounds; it was before Albany was destroyed by fire.’” President Young followed and said: “What Brother Woodruff has said is revelation and will be fulfilled.”15

Orson Pratt also testified of the destruction of these wicked cities:

“New York, Boston, Albany, and numerous other cities will be left desolate. Party will be arrayed in deadly strife against party; state against state; and the whole nation will be broken up; the sanguinary weapons of the dreadful revolution will devour the land.

“Then shall there be a fleeing from one city to another, from one state to another, from one part of the continent to another, seeking refuge from the devastations of bandits and armies; then shall their dead be left unburied, and the fowls of heaven shall summer upon them, and the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them.”16

The Wrath of God Will Be Poured Out Upon the Wicked

The prophet Nephi was shown in vision that these wars and destructions among the wicked are not accidental occurrences, but instead, they are the wrath of God descending upon the heads of the wicked. This destruction will pave the way for the Father to fulfill His covenants with the house of Israel, according to the Lord. Nephi reported:

“I beheld that the wrath of God was poured out upon that great and abominable church [i.e. Babylon and the wicked], insomuch that there were wars and rumors of wars among all the nations and kindreds of the earth. . . .

“And when the day cometh that the wrath of God is poured out upon the mother of harlots, which is the great and abominable church of all the earth, whose founder is the devil, then, at that day, the work of the Father shall commence, in preparing the way for the fulfilling of His covenants, which He hath made to His people who are of the house of Israel.”17

Nephi later gave us greater details about this prophecy of the destruction of the wicked. He told us that the righteous will not need to try to destroy the wicked, for they will destroy themselves:

“And the blood of that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall turn upon their own heads; for they shall war among themselves, and the sword of their own hands shall fall upon their own heads, and they shall be drunken with their own blood.”18

The wars among the wicked will eventually bring about their own destruction. All of their carefully-crafted plans to persecute and destroy the righteous will come to naught. As the seeds of discord and division spread throughout their ranks, they will be unable to attack the righteous in Zion,19 and in Zion, “it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another.”20

The wicked will fight among themselves until they have destroyed all national unity, and chaos and disorder will reign supreme. As their communities are filled with disarray and mob-like violence, they will turn to the Kingdom of God for leadership, for the righteous will be the only people who will be enjoying peace and order.

A Special Warning from the Lord to the Righteous in the Latter Days

As these terrible events take place across the earth, they will cause many of the people to become bitter, angry and agnostic, and this is an extremely dangerous situation for the souls of mankind. This anger toward God is a poison to the spirits and souls of those who allow it to grow and fester. The Savior gave us an important warning during His mortal ministry when He told His Apostles of the events that are coming in the last days:

“Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. And again, because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold; but he that shall not be overcome, the same shall be saved.21

It is critical for the spiritual well-being of the Saints to not become hardened and calloused by the events of the last days. We must not allow our hearts to grow cold, hard or bitter. By holding firmly to our faith in Jesus Christ, we can know that these events are being orchestrated by an all-knowing and loving God who is doing those things that are necessary for the salvation of mankind. He has much that He must do to prepare the earth for the Millennium. The removal of the wicked is one of the most necessary and egregious steps that must take place.

The Lord repeated this warning to the Saints in modern times in two revelations to the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that Christ delayeth His coming until the end of the earth. And the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound.”22

“For behold, and lo, vengeance cometh speedily upon the ungodly as the whirlwind; and who shall escape it? The Lord”s scourge shall pass over by night and by day, and the report thereof shall vex all people; yea, it shall not be stayed until the Lord come; for the indignation of the Lord is kindled against their abominations and all their wicked works.”23

Modern prophets have also told us that these catastrophic events will cause many of the Saints to mourn for the loss of so many lives. Presidents Brigham Young and John Taylor both described the heartache that the Saints will feel for the wicked who are destroyed:

“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.”24

“We need not be too anxious for the destruction of the wicked, for it will be indeed terrible when it comes, it will make every feeling man weep for sorrow over the trouble and affliction that will come.”25
“There is yet to come a sound of war, trouble and distress, in which brother will be arrayed against brother, father against son, son against father, a scene of desolation and destruction that will permeate our land until it will be a vexation to hear the report thereof.”26

“There will yet be wars pass through these United States, and through other nations, until it will be mournful to hear the report of the bloodshed.”27

We can make it through these troubling days through our faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the only true source of strength. He will give us hope and peace during this rough period as the wicked are removed from the earth.

However, unfortunately for the wicked, their troubles are only beginning.

Chapter Footnotes

1 . Revelation 18:10.
2 . Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, December 10, 1856, from James R. Clark, ed., Messages of the First Presidency (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965) 2:211.
3 . Orson Pratt, October 26, 1879, Journal of Discourses 24:33.
4 . 2 Nephi 15:9 (see Isaiah 5:9).
5 . Isaiah 6:11, 13:9-12, 24:1-3, 49:8-19, 54:3.
6 . History of the Church 1:315.
7 . 3 Nephi 22:1-3; Isaiah 54:1-3; emphasis added.
8 . 1 Nephi 21:19-21; Isaiah 49:19-21; emphasis added.
9 . 3 Nephi 9:5.
10 . D&C 84:114.
11 . Dean C. Jessee, ed., Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002), pp. 278-279. Spelling and punctuation have been corrected; emphasis added.
12 . Emmeline B. Wells, Relief Society Magazine, (October 1920) 7:10:563; emphasis added.
13 . Revelation 18:8-11.
14 . Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp. 161-162.
15 . Deseret News (November 12, 1884) 33:678.
16 . Orson Pratt, “American Nation’s Doom” Millennial Star (October 6, 1866) 28:633-634.
17 . 1 Nephi 14:15, 17.
18 . 1 Nephi 22:13.
19 . D&C 45:66-70.
20 . D&C 45:69.
21 . Joseph Smith---Matthew 1:29-30; emphasis added.
22 . D&C 45:26-27; emphasis added.
23 . D&C 97:22-24; emphasis added.
24 . Brigham Young, July 15, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:123.
25 . John Taylor, December 31, 1876, Journal of Discourses 18:332.
26 . John Taylor, October 6, 1879, Journal of Discourses 20:318.
27 . John Taylor, June 18, 1883, Journal of Discourses 24:200.