In the Book of Revelation, chapter 13, there is much to learn and ponder. The chapter begins by talking about a beast that rises out of the sea. This beast has seven heads and ten horns. The dragon, who is Satan, then gives power unto the beast. Interestingly enough, one of the heads of the beast has a wound that has been healed. All the world wonders at the beast and worships Satan and the Beast. In verses six and seven, still speaking about the beast with the wounded head, it says:
6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.
7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
Another beast then comes that has great power. In verse 14, it says of the second beast,
14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
The beast with the wounded head is able to get the whole world to worship him. The end of the chapter describes what happens once the world worships the beast:
16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
In short, unless the people of the world receive a mark in their hands or foreheads, they may not buy or sell. The mark in their hands or foreheads can be interpreted as people’s thoughts and deeds. Knowing that we are in the last days, how then does this relate to us?
Today, the United States of America and much of the whole world seems to be at a tipping point that relates very well to these scriptures. There’s a powerful political lobby that has infiltrated every part of our society and spread quickly across the world. It began on the coasts, in Manhattan, N.Y., in an incidence known as Stonewall and has spread its influence throughout the world. Today, if a person or business is not willing to go along with the demands of a powerfully orchestrated group, they may be refused employment, fired, sued, and stripped of their livelihood. As time goes on, it has become pretty clear that this will get much worse.
We’ve seen the suppressive influence with photographers, florists, bakers, fertility doctors, computer programmers, wedding churches, and property owners. Everyone on both sides of the issue expects the suppression to not only continue, but to broaden in scope.
On May 9th, Alliance Defending Freedom, referring to unique problems caused by the LGBT lobby in Canada, posted a warning to the American people on their Facebook page. They wrote:
Americans need to prepare for the same sort of surveillance-society if the Supreme Court rules to ban marriage as a male-female institution. It means that no matter what you believe, the government will be free to regulate your speech, your writing, your associations, and whether or not you may express your conscience. Americans also need to understand that the endgame for some in the LGBT rights movement involves centralized state power—and the end of First Amendment freedoms.
Prophecy Concerning the Loss of Freedom in America
For years, radicals, sociologists, and people in government have tried to destroy the rights guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States of America. Through powerful lobbying, they are finally succeeding.
But well before Alliance Defending Freedom began a defense fund to defend religious and speech rights of people around the world, before anyone knew that the break-down of marriage and the rise of same-sex marriage would lead to the limitation and possible destruction of religious freedom, Latter-day Saint prophets had been giving similar warnings.
“The disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).
As early as in General Conference Oct. 1952, the Prophet David O. McKay warned:
“During the first half of the twentieth century,” said President McKay, “we have traveled far into the soul-destroying land … and made strange alliances through and made strange alliances through which we have become involved in almost continuous hot and cold wars over the whole of the earth. In this retreat from freedom the voices of protesting citizens have been drowned by raucous riots of intolerance and abuse from those who led the retreat and their millions of gullible youth, who are marching merrily to their doom, carrying banners on which are emblazoned such intriguing and misapplied labels as social justice, equality, reform, patriotism, social welfare.” (Quoted from Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1963, pp. 109-114).
In General Conference April 1963, Ezra Taft Benson quoted a warning from J. Rueben Clark:
“… the ownership of the things which are necessary to feed your families is going to be taken away from us. I tell you freedom of speech will go, freedom of the press will go, and freedom of religion will go.
I have warned you against propaganda and hate. We are in the midst of the greatest exhibition of propaganda that the world has ever seen, and all directed toward one end. Just do not believe all you read” (Conf. Rep., October 3, 1941, p. 16 and Ward Teaching Message, July 1961) (Quoted from Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1963, pp. 109-114).
In the same conference, Ezra Taft Benson offered his own warning:
I became alarmed as I reviewed what has happened in our schools under so-called “progressive education.” What about the loss of patriotism, faith in God, and the teachings of character building principles once so much a part of our education? We have all but “forced Americanism out of the classroom to make way for temporary trivialities”(Delove, Chicago Tribune, Oct. 9, 1960, pg 130).
I remembered President Joseph F. Smith’s warning of the three dangers to the Church from within, viz., the flattery of prominent men, sexual impurity, and false educational ideas (Gospel Doctrine, p. 312).
Then there came to me the words of that courageous American patriot J. Edgar Hoover: “Today as never before, America has need for men and women who possess the moral strength and courage of our forefathers—modern-day patriots, with pride in our country and faith in freedom . . .” (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1963, pp. 109-114).
The Book of Mormon has also spoken about this several times:
“And now,” warned Moroni, “we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity” (Ether 2:9).
Ken Connelly, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote about how gay marriage is destroying freedom in America. He stated, “Any failure to accept this new vision of marriage—any failure to publicly bend the knee to this new orthodoxy—will result in very public and very damaging punishments.” These punishments, Connelly explains, are loss of tax exempt status for religious institutions, eventually extending to religions, no freedom for business owners, loss of free speech and freedom of the press, and loss of freedom of religion. Perhaps without the symbolic “mark of the beast in each person’s hand or forehead”, people may eventually not be able to buy or sell. This prophecy written 2,000 years ago, by Jesus’ beloved apostle John, seems to have begun to be fulfilled.
Hope in Divine Destiny
Yet, all hope is not lost. The Book of Mormon is clear about the promises of America. Second Nephi 1:20 declares, “And he hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never been stronger. The number of members removing their names from the records of the Church has always been very small and is significantly less in recent years than in the past. The increase in demonstrably measurable areas, such as endowed members with a current temple recommend, adult full-tithe payers, and those serving missions, has been dramatic. Let me say again, the Church has never been stronger” (Quentin L. Cook, The Lord Is My Light, Apr. 2015).
The tenth Article of Faith affirms the divine destiny of the Americas:
“We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.”
Ezra Taft Benson has reminded us of our responsibility concerning our freedom and our land. He’s cautioned:
Never before has the land of Zion appeared so vulnerable to so powerful an enemy as the Americas do at present. And our vulnerability is directly attributable to our loss of active faith in the God of this land, who has decreed that we must worship Him or be swept off. Too many Americans have lost sight of the truth that God is our source of freedom—the Lawgiver—and that personal righteousness is the most important essential to preserving our freedom. So, I say with all the energy of my soul that unless we as citizens of this nation forsake our sins, political and otherwise, and return to the fundamental principles of Christianity and of constitutional government, we will lose our political liberties, our free institutions, and will stand in jeopardy before God” (Ezra Taft Benson, A Witness and a Warning, Oct. 1979).
I testify to you that God’s hand has been in our destiny. I testify that freedom as we know it today is being threatened as never before in our history. I further witness that this land—the Americas—must be protected, its Constitution upheld, for this is a land foreordained to be the Zion of our God. He expects us as members of the Church and bearers of His priesthood to do all we can to preserve our liberty.
May God bless us that, with His help, we will not fail to bring to pass His purposes on earth (Ezra Taft Benson, A Witness and a Warning, Oct. 1979).
We cannot do nothing. The Lord expects us to preserve the freedom of this land and to build up Zion. Each of us as members of the Church must make an effort toward personal righteousness and pray to know what we must do as individuals to help maintain the liberty of this blessed land.
Third Nephi: A Type for the Latter-days
We are not the only society that has faced such great odds. In 3 Nephi 7 we learn that in the space of a few years wicked people destroyed the government, the prophets were stoned and cast out, the majority of the people were angered by healings and miracles from the prophets, and only a few righteous people remained in the land. Yet, once the Savior came and taught the gospel, the people were all converted and they lived in peace and righteousness with no poor among them for nearly 200 years.
The righteous Nephites knew the prophecies that affected their day and the days ahead. Those who looked for the signs given to them from the prophets, gained spiritual strength that helped them to remain righteous through dark times.
In our day, we have some frightening prophecies. Isaiah and Revelations and others, have prophesied of darkness and destruction in the latter-days. But they also prophesy of Zion and the second coming of our Lord and Savior. Searching these prophecies gives us a clear understanding of where the Lord stands and where He wants us to stand. Like the Nephites, these prophecies can lend us the strength we need to successfully navigate dark times.
The Nephites stood strong and continued to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ despite immense wickedness all around them, and after a time of trial, they saw and conversed with the Savior and built a Zion society. We can be like the righteous Nephites remaining faithful even when it seems like the world around us is falling apart. Reading and understanding the signs of our days given to us in the scriptures can help us to faithfully do what we must to prepare our hearts to receive Zion and the presence of the Savior in His glorious second coming.
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