Chapter 20: Cataclysmic Disasters Descend Upon the Wicked

Pestilence, hail, famine and earthquake will sweep the wicked of this generation from off the face of the land.1

In addition to the destruction caused by famine and war, other calamities will rain down upon the heads of the wicked until they are eventually consumed. These will be days of sorrow for those who refuse to repent as the earth is cleansed in preparation for His Return and the Millennium. At this same time, the righteous will be growing in beauty and strength, as peace and order prevails in Zion and the people prosper under the principles of the Kingdom of God and the law of consecration and stewardship.

The Lord has told His prophets that there are many severe judgments that await those who are defiantly disobedient, “when the wrath of God shall be poured out upon the wicked without measure.”2 It is astounding to contemplate the magnitude of the predicted destructions that will descend upon the heads of the wicked.

Those Who Have Rejected the Lord Will Receive His Judgments

Since the beginning of time the Lord has warned the wicked that they need to repent or sore judgments would await them.3 This warning has continued into modern times, when He warned, “mine anger is kindled against the rebellious, and they shall know mine arm and mine indignation, in the day of visitation and of wrath upon the nations.”4

The prophet Nephi was allowed to see in vision the destruction that would befall the wicked in the last days, and he gave us a hint of what lies in the future as he expounded upon the prophecies contained in the 29th chapter of Isaiah. His commentary on this chapter of Isaiah is rather unique, for Nephi weaves the words of the prophet Isaiah into his explanation of what he saw.

It is the first part of Nephi’s commentary that helps us to understand the world conditions that will lead to the destruction of the wicked. He begins with a description of the people’s wickedness, and then concludes with the prophetic words of Isaiah which predict what will happen:

“Behold all the nations of the Gentiles and also the Jews, both those who shall come upon this land [of America] and those who shall be upon other lands, yea, even upon all the lands of the earth, behold, they will be drunken with iniquity and all manner of abominations---and when that day shall come [Nephi begins quoting Isaiah now] they shall be visited of the Lord of Hosts, with thunder and with earthquake, and with a great noise, and with storm, and with tempest, and with the flame of devouring fire. . . .

“For behold, all ye that doeth iniquity, stay yourselves and wonder, for ye shall cry out, and cry; yea, ye shall be drunken but not with wine, ye shall stagger but not with strong drink. For behold, the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep. For behold, ye have closed your eyes, and ye have rejected the prophets.”5

When the wicked have become saturated with iniquity, the cup of the Lord’s wrath will be filled to the brim. The wicked will have numbed and stupefied their minds with various forms of iniquity. They will have rejected the prophets and the words of eternal life, and terrible calamities will descend upon them. The day of retribution and judgment will roll forth with power and devastation, as the Lord said, "for the day of wrath shall come upon them as a whirlwind, and all flesh shall know that I am God.”6

Earthquakes in Diverse Places

The Lord told the Prophet Joseph that powerful and intense earthquakes will be one of the future calamities that will befall the wicked in the last days. These quakes will shake the nations tremendously in many places throughout the world.7 Since the times of the Old Testament the Lord has repeatedly warned the wicked that earthquakes will befall them if they do not repent.8 Modern prophets have also warned that the cities of wickedness will be destroyed by earthquakes,9 including New York City.10

Some of these earthquakes will be so severe that “men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand.”11 As the cities, buildings and mountains crash down around the wicked, they will be unable to rise to their feet and flee. When the Lord speaks through the terrible shaking of the earth, the wicked will be jolted to the core, but still they will not repent. The Lord told us that “there shall be earthquakes also in divers places, and many desolations; yet men will harden their hearts against me.”12

President Brigham Young prophesied that earthquakes and other disturbances in the earth’s crust would cause some of the cities of the wicked to be destroyed and buried within the earth:

“When the testimony of the elders ceases to be given, and the Lord says to them, ‘Come home; I will now preach my own sermons to the nations of the earth,’ all you now know can scarcely be called a preface to the sermon that will be preached with fire and sword, tempests, earthquakes, hail, rain, thunders and lightnings, and fearful destruction. . . .

“You will hear of magnificent cities, now idolized by the people, sinking in the earth, entombing the inhabitants. The sea will heave itself beyond its bounds, engulfing mighty cities.”13

These cities of wickedness will be wiped from the surface of the earth. It will be as cataclysmic and shocking to the people as was the destruction of the Nephite cities of abomination at the time of the Savior’s crucifixion.14

The Lord told the righteous that they would stand as witnesses of this destruction in the last days, while the wicked are cut down and annihilated:

“And it shall come to pass that he that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man. And they shall see signs and wonders, for they shall be shown forth in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath. And they shall behold blood, and fire, and vapors of smoke.”15

Turmoil in the Earth’s Oceans

Not only will the Lord’s judgments be poured out upon the land masses of the earth with cataclysmic earthquakes, but His retribution upon the wicked will also affect the seas and the oceans. The Lord told the Prophet Joseph:

“Wherefore, the days will come that no flesh shall be safe upon the waters. And it shall be said in days to come that none is able to go up to the land of Zion upon the waters, but he that is upright in heart.”16

Enoch was shown in vision this severe disturbance of the earth’s oceans, when no one will be safe upon the waters except the righteous, and the scriptures recorded that ‘he saw great tribulations among the wicked; and he also saw the sea, that it was troubled, and men’s hearts failing them, looking forth with fear for the judgments of the Almighty God, which should come upon the wicked.”17

Not only will the wicked be unable to traverse the turbulent oceans, but the oceans will heave themselves beyond their shores, destroying and engulfing large cities.18 As these gigantic tsunamis sweep inland, they will obliterate all things within their path, scouring the land with the mighty force that is found in rushing, turbulent waters. We often forget that water is actually very heavy---a cubic foot of water weighs a hefty 62 pounds---and it can damage and obliterate houses and buildings with tremendous force.

These large tsunamis of the last days could be triggered by massive undersea earthquakes, as happened in the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004 and in Japan on March 11, 2011, or they could be caused by a meteor from outer space slamming into the ocean with tremendous speed and force. A wave caused by a meteor would be truly catastrophic, creating waves hundreds of feet in height that would sweep many miles inland, obliterating all cities, vegetation and people. As these waters then returned to the sea, they would scour the land once again, carrying the dead and debris out to the sea.

Many Wicked Men Will Be Destroyed

Among the wicked, the end times will be a horrific experience as they feel the hand of justice from Almighty God. The prophets have said that very few men will be left after this devastation. President Brigham Young compared the destruction that the wicked will experience as being worse than the confusion that occurred anciently at the tower of Babel:

“In the days of the great tower of Babel, God confounded their language and spread confusion and dismay among them, and ultimately scattered them to the four winds of heaven. The confusion will be no less great in these days, and the destruction of human life will be so great that but few men will be left.”19

“There will be war, famine, pestilence, and misery through the nations of the earth, and there will be no safety in any place but Zion. . . . You can believe it or not, but the time is coming when a good man will be more precious than fine gold.”20

“The responsibility is upon the men, and they will be used up, for they go to war, and will fall in battle by hundreds and thousands, until the earth is emptied.”21

The prophet Isaiah also testified of this shortage of men in the last days. The Lord told him:

“I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.”22
The people who remain after these destructions will be left in a state of severe shock, struggling to grasp the enormity of what has occurred. In a state of numbness they will search for any means of hope and sustenance that they can find. They will gladly flee to the righteous, whom they have previously persecuted, searching for food and life. It will be the duty of the righteous to put aside any animosity they may feel, and help these obliterated masses of people, their former persecutors. They will fulfill the words of the Savior to “do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”23

Retribution from the Children of Lehi

The wicked will also have to face another source of retribution in the last days. When the Savior visited the Nephites and Lamanites after His resurrection, he prophesied that their descendants would act as a scourge to the wicked in the last days:

“But if they [the American Gentiles] will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.”24

When the Savior appeared to the Nephites again on the following day, he expounded on this prophecy, and described in detail how the wicked would be obliterated by the children of Lehi:

“And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. Their hand shall be lifted up upon their adversaries, and all their enemies shall be cut off.

“Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots; and I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds; and I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy land, and thou shalt have no more soothsayers; thy graven images I will also cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more worship the works of thy hands; and I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities. And it shall come to pass that all lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, shall be done away.

“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.”25

In modern times the Lord repeated this prophecy to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and He explained what would cause the children of Lehi to rise up and attack the wicked Gentiles:
“And it shall come to pass also that the remnants who are left of the land will marshal themselves, and shall become exceedingly angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation.”26

When the wicked American Gentiles have sufficiently angered the sons of Lehi, it will bring calamity upon them and their children. The children of Lehi will rise up “as a young lion among the flocks of sheep,”27 destroying the wicked, their cities and their possessions with great power and vengeance as they bring the judgments of God down upon the heads of the wicked.

A Plague to Vex the Gentiles

In addition to these catastrophic judgments, the Lord has warned the people in several revelations that virulent and deadly plagues will spread across the land and decimate those who will not repent.28

The flu epidemic of 1918 was a singular occurrence in modern times that reminds us how fragile the thread of life can be. In the fall of 1918, an estimated 50 million people worldwide perished in just a few months from the sudden appearance of a new strain of the flu. This new disease had first been detected in the spring of 1918.

Usually a virus will attack the elderly and the very young, but oddly enough, most of those who perished from the 1918 flu were healthy and in middle age. This happened because the virus triggered the body’s immune system to overreact---response known as a cytokine storm---and the victims rapidly perished as their lungs filled with fluid. Some victims passed away just hours after their first symptoms appeared.

In the United States more than 25 percent of the population was affected by the epidemic, and it killed three percent of those who became ill. Public meetings and church services were cancelled, and many countries rapidly went into a state of national quarantine so that the disease would not spread further.29

The Lord has repeatedly warned that a plague of even greater proportions than the epidemic of 1918 awaits the wicked in the latter days. In four different revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord stated:

“For a desolating scourge shall go forth among the inhabitants of the earth, and shall continue to be poured out from time to time, if they repent not, until the earth is empty, and the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming.”30

“For I, the Almighty, have laid my hands upon the nations, to scourge them for their wickedness. And plagues shall go forth, and they shall not be taken from the earth until I have completed my work, which shall be cut short in righteousness.”31

“And there shall be men standing in that generation [the generation that will reject the missionaries], that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land. But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.”32

“Wherefore, I the Lord God will send forth flies upon the face of the earth, which shall take hold of the inhabitants thereof, and shall eat their flesh, and shall cause maggots to come in upon them; and their tongues shall be stayed that they shall not utter against me; and their flesh shall fall from off their bones, and their eyes from their sockets; and it shall come to pass that the beasts of the forest and the fowls of the air shall devour them up.”33

President John Taylor also testified to the Saints that these plagues would be sent upon the wicked. He predicted that because of the self-inflicted plague of abortion and other perversions of mankind, virulent diseases would spread across the earth:

“He will shake all the inhabitants of the earth, He will shake thrones and will overturn empires and desolate the land and lay millions of the human family in the dust. Plagues and pestilence will stalk through the earth because of the iniquities of men, because of some of these corruptions . . . namely, the perversion of the laws of nature between the sexes, and the damnable murders [abortions] that exist among men.”34

We can already see a partial fulfillment of President Taylor’s words today in the sad and deadly dispersion of the AIDS virus across the world, and greater plagues than these still await the wicked.35

Orson Hyde also prophesied that a plague and desolating sickness would spread across the land, and that this would happen when the wicked have become ripe in iniquity by expelling the Saints from their communities. He said:

“Thus the Lord has spoken. Nations shall be cut off when they are ripe in iniquity. But they are not ripe in iniquity until they kill my servants and cast out my people; then will I visit them in my anger, and vex them in my displeasure, and cut off their bitter branches. A desolating sickness shall cover the land. Famine shall sorely oppress them; confusion and war shall make their hearts to faint, and their knees to tremble.”36

The Sanctification of the Land of America

These plagues, famines, earthquakes and other destructions from the Lord will annihilate the immoral and degenerate people throughout the world, and leave many cities empty and uninhabited.

During the same time that the wicked are perishing from these afflictions, the righteous will find protection in the cities of Zion and in the city of New Jerusalem. In January 1833 Joseph Smith prophetically declared:

“The city of Zion . . . will be built upon the land of America, ‘And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their head’ [Isaiah 35:10]; and then they will be delivered from the overflowing scourge that shall pass through the land. But Judah shall obtain deliverance at Jerusalem. . . .

“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.”37

As the wicked are swept off the face of the earth, the American continent will be renewed and sanctified, preparing the way for the return of the lost tribes of Israel. Once the wicked have perished, the righteous will be able to spread across the land, filling the continent with truth and justice.

The Fall of the Great and Abominable Church

The destruction of the wicked will also bring about the fall of Babylon and the collapse of the great and abominable church that John and Nephi both saw in vision.38 The prophets have rejoiced when they have beheld the future fall of Babylon in vision, since this will be the end of Satan’s reign upon the earth.39

The fall of Babylon will also result in the destruction of the great and spacious building that Lehi and Nephi were shown in vision.40 This building, which is filled with those who seek the glory of the world, will tumble to the earth “and the fall thereof [will be] exceedingly great.”41 The allurement of fame, fortune, politics and the entertainment industry will no longer deceive the people and lead them astray.42

The Lord has told us that He will bring about the destruction of the great and abominable church by internal strife and turmoil. As Nephi prophesied:

“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.

“And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord.
“And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.”43

The Savior has told us that “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”44 Babylon will bring about its own downfall, falling victim to the very fate it had planned to use to destroy the righteous.

Great Rejoicing Among the Righteous

When the great and abominable church is destroyed it will be a day of great rejoicing among the righteous. According to the scriptures, the angels will declare the news with triumph, and the Saints will be filled with gratitude that Babylon and her temptations have finally come to an end:

“And another angel shall sound his trump, saying: ‘That great church, the mother of abominations, that made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, that persecuteth the saints of God, that shed their blood---she who sitteth upon many waters, and upon the islands of the sea---behold, she is the tares of the earth; she is bound in bundles; her bands are made strong, no man can loose them; therefore, she is ready to be burned.’ And he shall sound his trump both long and loud, and all nations shall hear it. . . .

“And again, another angel shall sound his trump, which is the sixth angel, saying: She is fallen who made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication; she is fallen, is fallen!”45
“The great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall be cast down by devouring fire, according as it is spoken by the mouth of Ezekiel the prophet, who spoke of these things, which have not come to pass but surely must, as I live, for abominations shall not reign.”46

All of these events must be brought to pass so that the Lord can rid the world of wickedness, and cleanse the earth in preparation for His Second Coming and for the glorious epoch of the Millennium, when “the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”47

As the land is cleansed of the wicked, the Lord will bring about His purposes in redeeming the land of Zion so the righteous can finally inhabit the sacred land of New Jerusalem. It will be a glorious and wonderful day when the Saints can return to the beautiful, rolling country where Adam and Eve first dwelt upon the earth.

Chapter Footnotes

1 . History of the Church 1:315.
2 . D&C 1:9.
3 . Moses 6:23, 27-30.
4 . D&C 56:1.
5 . 2 Nephi 27:1-2, 4-5; emphasis added. Compare to Isaiah 29:6-10.
6 . D&C 63:6; emphasis added.
7 . D&C 45:33.
8 . Isaiah 2:19, 29:6; Matthew 24:7; Revelation 6:12, 11:13, 16:18; 2 Nephi 6:15, 27:2; Mormon 8:30; D&C 43:25, 45:33, 84:118, 87:6, 88:89; Moses 7:61.
9 . History of the Church 1:315.
10 . Deseret News (November 12, 1884) 33:678.
11 . D&C 88:89.
12 . D&C 45:33.
13 . Brigham Young, July 15, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:123.
14 . 3 Nephi 9:3-12.
15 . D&C 45:39-41.
16 . D&C 61:15-16.
17 . Moses 7:66.
18 . Brigham Young, July 15, 1860, Journal of Discourses 8:123.
19 . Brigham Young, August 31, 1862, Journal of Discourses 9:366.
20 . Brigham Young, May 15, 1864, Journal of Discourses 10:294-295.
21 . Brigham Young, July 28, 1861, Journal of Discourses 9:144.
22 . Isaiah 13:11-12.
23 . Matthew 5:44.
24 . 3 Nephi 16:15.
25 . 3 Nephi 21:12-21; see also 3 Nephi 20:16-20. It is significant to note that the Savior is quoting from the prophecies given to the prophet Micah, which are found in Micah 5:7-15.
26 . D&C 87:5; emphasis added.
27 . 3 Nephi 20:16, 21:12; Micah 5:8.
28 . D&C 5:19, 29:18-20, 45:31-32, 84:96-97.
29 . Alfred W. Crosby, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918, (Cambridge University Press, 1990); John M. Barry, The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Greatest Plague in History, (New York: Viking Penguin, 2004).
30 . D&C 5:19.
31 . D&C 84:96-97.
32 . D&C 45:31-32.
33 . D&C 29:18-20.
34 . John Taylor, November 28, 1879, Journal of Discourses 21:116.
35 . D&C 29:18-20.
36 . Orson Hyde, March 18, 1855, Journal of Discourses 2:206.
37 . History of the Church 1:315; emphasis added.
38 . 1 Nephi 14:3, 22:14; Revelation 14:8.
39 . Isaiah 14:1-24, 48:20; Revelation 14:8, 18:1-3.
40 . 1 Nephi 8:26-28, 11:35, 12:18.
41 . 1 Nephi 11:35-36, 12:18.
42 . 1 Nephi 8:31-33, 12:18.
43 . 1 Nephi 22:13-14, emphasis added.
44 . Matthew 12:25.
45 . D&C 88:94, 105.
46 . D&C 29:21; see also Ezekiel 38:22.
47 . Psalms 37:11.