I always wondered how this was going to happen — when word will come that it is time to make the trip back to Missouri in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
I wondered if it would be announced over the pulpit or discussed in a priesthood meeting at church. I never imagined that I would have the privilege to take part in it—not really.
But it’s happening all around us. From its 6 members just 188 years ago, the kingdom of God here on Earth has grown to more than 16 million members today. There were 5 million members when I left on my mission, and don’t get me wrong, that is significant—but look at the incredible growth since then!
Sometimes I have been amazed when we have arrived for tithing settlement late some Sunday evening, and the bishop, his counselors, and the ward and financial clerks are still there working. Some of you have received an email about upcoming ministering interviews. These messages may have been sent by the new feature available on the lds.org website called “Leader and Clerk Resources.” Every facet of the Church is expanding and growing to fulfill its destiny. We have been witnesses to that.
These are just small examples. The armies of the Lord are preparing for His coming. Believe me when I tell you that the Kingdom of God on Earth is fulfilling its destiny—temples, missionary work, technology, family history, priesthood, scriptures, and revelation, to mention just a few from the wealth of blessings available in the gospel of Jesus Christ. To articulate them all would be both impossible and unbelievable, but I have experienced enough to know of its verity. Let me provide one or two small examples.
I once applied for a job at BYU. It was just following graduation, and I wasn’t really sure where my family and I were headed at the time. The position was to create the means of sharing the family history resources between the universities owned by the Church. You might remember the thousands of microfiche images and dozens of microfiche machines in the Harold B Lee library.
Given the technology then, it was an overwhelming task, or so I thought at the time. After all, this was before the general distribution of the online resources and was similarly well ahead of cells phones. Not many years later, the Internet made its debut and was shortly followed by the explosion of technology and family history resources all over the Web.
Not only were the family history resources of the BYU library available to other Church universities but the world and homes on every continent enjoyed access. We are still just beginning to understand the immensity of the task and the potential blessings found therein with no end in sight.
There has been a blockbuster movie playing in the theaters recently. You may have heard of it: The Greatest Showman. Have you seen it?
During one part in the show, the main actor, Hugh Jackman, witnesses an opera singer performing. It is a crucial time in the film, and he is betting all his marbles on this act. The music hall is filled to capacity, and the audience waits anxiously. As the concert begins, at first he is nervous and rolls his eyes, hoping for success.
As soon as the strains begin to loft into the air and the melody grows, he is pleased with the outcome and the satisfaction shows on his face in the form of a smile. But suddenly the song culminates and the majesty of the performance begins to amaze him. His breathing accelerates. The presentation is really getting good and has exceeded his fondest expectations. But it’s not over.
As the piece reaches its climax, he is awestruck and can’t believe what is happening. At the song’s conclusion, the applause erupts and the audience leaps to their feet. He stands breathless and astounded—stunned, really—and can’t believe what just happened. It’s my favorite part of the movie.
I connect with this act because the drama is classic and the imagery well done and memorable. But really it is significant to me because I think that Jackman’s portrayed emotion is just the way we are going to feel when we realize the blessings the Lord has prepared for us to receive as we follow Him and keep His commandments.
Yes, there will be a day when we finally comprehend and fully appreciate the magnitude of His gift to us and are rewarded for our faithfulness. I have no doubt that amazed is just the way we will feel as we recognize the blessings that are in store for us.
And that emotion is not just reserved for after this life. You are the cream of the crop. Of the billions of people who have lived on Earth, you are among the select few who have been offered all the blessings of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ here on earth. We are only beginning to recognize its magnitude, and I have been a member of the Church my entire life. The gospel is the greatest message of all time, and we have the exclusive role to carry that message to the world so it can bless and strengthen those who take part in it. The growth of the Church has been astounding.
The blessings of the gospel are real. The promises of Jesus Christ will all be fulfilled. We can see their fulfillment in this life as we follow Him and keep His commandments. Do you believe that?
There is another situation I want to discuss briefly. You have all heard about this and no doubt many of you can relay the story better than I. It has to do with the Israelites. They have finally been freed from captivity and are wandering in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. Incredible miracles have freed them from the Egyptians and sustained them through their trials: parting the Red Sea, manna falling from heaven to give them nourishment, life-saving water from a rock, and many other manifestations of God’s power for their protection with a promise.
In the midst of all this, fiery serpents are unleashed and bite the people because they fail to acknowledge God’s hand. This is obviously not good because the venom is deadly, but what happens next?
Moses is commanded to raise a brass serpent on a pole. The afflicted are given a promise that if they look at the serpent, they will be healed. Amazingly, many do not try that simple solution and because they fail to apply the promise to look and be healed, they perish.
How is this situation similar to ours today? Perhaps this has a lot to do with the commandments and opportunities given us through the Church, like family history work, missionary service, tithes and offerings, family councils, and much, much more. Is it possible that when we fail to apply these ‘solutions,’ we are just like the afflicted Israelites refusing to look at the brass serpent to be healed?
Not only is it possible, the experience is an allegory of the healing available to us through Jesus Christ. What a shame it would be to turn away from the very source that holds the power to heal and the solutions to all our problems and heartache.
I recently listened to a talk from nearly 20 years ago. This inspiring message was delivered by our dear prophet at the time, Gordon B Hinckley. His age was beginning to impact his ability to do the Lord’s work but he nonetheless continued to further God’s work on Earth. In this short time, the growth and resilience of the Church continued.
The promise, however, has remained the same for centuries.
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. – 1 Corinthians 2:9
Now that is really amazing.
About Walter Penning
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.