The time has come to make a prediction about the timing of the second coming of Jesus Christ. John C. has been asking what happened to Mormon Millenarianism and I decided it was time break out this long-promised post. I’ve warned you that I’d take a whack at this for several months now so don’t act surprised. Guessing the when the second coming will take place is an age-old tradition and who am I to fight such tradition? Before I get started let me first direct anyone who feels inclined to scold me to go to my first post on the subject. I dealt with the classic whining and “why don’t you guess if the pearly gates swing or roll” snarks there. This post is for the old-school Millenarians among us only!
I also need to point out my second post on the subject called “Has God decided when the second coming will be yet?” In that post I focus on the concept that the timing of the Second Coming is probably largely contingent on the actions of us free-willed people living here. I still believe that the exact day and time has not been set yet because God is in wait-and-see mode on the whole thing. When the earth is fully ripe then Christ will return. We can talk about that idea here too but perhaps the other post would be a better place to bring up the foreknowledge subject again. With any luck Blake will come around to pound on all challengers. (He’s pretty good at that… I suspect that is partly because he is right on this subject.)
So you might ask: How can you predict the timing of the Second Coming if you believe it isn’t even decided yet. Well, that would lead us to another couple of former posts. In this one I agree with Hugh Nibley when he says the script of our planet is just like a play with God as the director and us as the actors. In fact I believe it is the same script used on previous inhabited planets. When you combine that with the fact that God is the ultimate predictor (see posts on this here and here) and can predict anything that is actually predictable I believe he can triangulate the timing very closely.
Ok, so now we get to my secret sauce on triangulating the timing for the second coming: The Book of Mormon. I know lots of people like to look at Biblical prophesies, but I believe the events in the Book of Mormon are included largely for us to use as a type and shadow for the events that are to unfold in the last days prior to the triumphal return of Christ. I think the overall events in the Book of Mormon – at least Mosiah through 3 Nephi can be used as a basic map for the events that will happen in the last days (and probably most especially in the U.S.) I understand this is not a unique idea to use the BoM as a guide in these things. In fact I thought I’d read somewhere that there are entire books on this subject. That is actually good news to me. If I was the only one who went for this idea it would worry me.
What evidence is there for the idea we can use the Book of Mormon as a guide to the events before the second coming? Well first it is a well established teaching in the Church that the Book of Mormon was written especially for us in our day as preparation for the second coming of Christ. Second, look at the way time is compressed and stretched in the narrative. We have the records of Nephi and Jacob on the small plates, then we basically skip ahead 400 hundred years to the reign of King Mosiah. Then 320 of the pages of the 527 page record are devoted to the 164 years leading up to the visit of the resurrected Christ to the Americas. That means of the thousand years’ worth of history covered, more than 60% of the record is focused on that 164 year span. It is highly doubtful that this was a mistake. Mormon repeatedly tells us that he is using less than 1% of the records available to him and that the Lord is guiding his compiling efforts. So why is the book of Mormon so focused on the period leading up to Christ’s visit? I believe it was because God wanted to give his saints in the last days some extra help in doing just what I’m doing here… predicting the timing of the Lord’s return as well as preparing ourselves to be ready for the bridegroom.
So how do we use those 320 pages to make a prediction? Well it’s certainly not an exact science. I loosely try to match up major shifts in the Nephite history and compare it to similar shifts in US history. I use the US because we were started as an American church and even though we have more members outside of the US now we are still largely and American church. Plus the New Jerusalem is going to be here so I think it makes the most sense to work with that model. (Besides I’m just guessing here anyway right?)
So here is my guess based on that BoM as map technique: I think the second coming will probably happen some time in the 40′s (2040′s that is). Ok, so you probably are wondering why I chose that period. Well, it’s only a guess of course, but I see some signposts in the Nephite history that back me up on that. The Nephites had a period of massive wars with the Lamanites, but eventually that warring ended and they wound up having terrorists groups become their primary enemy. Obviously that matches US history over the last several decades. About 45 years before the Lord appeared the Nephites found the terrorists to be troublesome enough to send troops into the wilderness to root them out and destroy them (see Helaman 11). Obviously there are potential parallels there with our recent “War on Terror”. Interestingly, the political landscape had changed at that point among the Nephites as well. In earlier decades it was king-men vs. free men. By that time the political divide was defined by religion — it was those who supported God and religion vs. those who didn’t. That also sounds similar to America today to me. If the 40′s are the right decade to look at then we are matching up now with the end of the Book of Helaman or beginning of 3 Nephi.
Anyway, it’s a pretty loose method to try to pin down timing but it seems like the best one we have. I actually was inspired to write this post originally based on comments over at T&S a few months ago that provided other evidence to back my theory. In those comments our own Justin Butterfield said:
A former roommate of mine told me that he was told by a friend of a bodyguard for President Howard W. Hunter that President Hunter said (in the bodyguard’s presence) that the Second Coming would occur around 2040. I’ve marked my calendar.
You can’t go wrong with a 4th hand witness like that! Ivan Wolfe followed up and added:
6000 or 6001 on the Jewish Calendar. Which would be, I think, if my calculations are correct, 2239 or 2040. So, maybe Howard W. Hunter was on to something………
So there you have my prediction. Let the free-for-all begin. Feel free to give your predictions or explain why your method is better than mine, etc. I figure this is a pretty important subject so maybe together we can come up with some interesting things to chew on.