I recently heard my wife have the following conversation. She was on the phone, so I heard only her side:
“No, she didn’t predict when he’d come.”
“Because she’s smarter than that. She’s been delivering babies long enough to know that any prediction is going to be wrong. But the chiropractor did, sorta.”
“No, he just said that everything’s lined up now, and he gave his permission.”
“Yeah, he said I could go into labor anytime now.”
As I heard this, a phrase from scripture came into my head: “of that day, and hour, no one knoweth; no, not the angels of God in heaven…” (JS-M 1:40). And I thought, ‘that’s a wise midwife.’
Nobody can predict when a baby will come no matter how long they’ve been in obstetrics. My wife’s good friend who had a baby about 5 months ago, was told by her OB that she wouldn’t have their baby until well after his due date, so he’d see her for a regular appointment in a week, a few days after the due date. The baby arrived 4 days later, on his due date.
Our little baby boy came the day after the chiropractor suggested he was ready to come soon. It was March 5th, which was well before his due date of the 12th. Even with all our modern technology and our midwife’s 22 years of experience delivering baby’s, she wasn’t about to make a prediction, because she knew it would be worthless to try. Even still, a wise Chiropractor who’s worked with many expecting mothers, seemed to know that the time was near.
The 1st Coming of Christ
After the scriptural phrase came to mind, I started to realize just how we can apply that reference about Christ’s 2nd coming (along with other similar ones), to his 1st coming. Mary and Joseph must’ve known he was about arrive as the phrase “the days were accomplished that she should be delivered,” (Luke 2:6) suggests. When a woman goes into active labor, you know the baby’s coming, but even at that point you don’t know exactly when. Only half an hour before our baby came, I remember thinking that it could still be hours away. I prayed that it wouldn’t be, for my wife’s sake, and because I was emotionally drained and wasn’t sure how much longer I could offer support. Just the same, as Jesus’ delivery drew near, Mary & Joesph must’ve known, but even they didn’t know for sure… until he came.
Its interesting that after that, Simeon and Anna both had some indication of when the Messiah would come to the temple, and were ready for him. Simeon had lived close enough to the Spirit that “it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). And so when the time came, he was led “by the Spirit into the temple,” (Luke 2:27) where Mary & Joseph had brought the infant Jesus. Anna’s story is different. She is constantly in the Temple, fasting and praying. Its because of these righteous habits that the “happy accident” occurs and she runs into Mary and Joseph (possibly as Simeon is blessing Jesus), recognizes her Savior, and speaks “of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).
We’re represented with two symbolic representations of people prepared for the 2nd coming of Jesus. 1) the Brethren who know, by the Spirit, when the time is near, and are guided to perform ordinances and receive the reward of meeting their Savior. 2) the faithful members of the church, who see the signs, follow the Spirit, and thereby are in the right place at the right time, preparing themselves and others, when he comes. We see this played out when Christ visits the Nephites as well. A group is gathered at the Temple, preparing for His coming. They don’t know when it will be, but because of their faithfulness and preparation, know something that the rest of the people who survived the destruction don’t. Or at least they’re more motivated and prepared. The result is that they are rewarded by spending much more time with Jesus before they go and get everyone else. They also receive blessings during that time, that the other’s don’t (but that’s an article of its own).
Christ’s Birth in the ‘New World’
In the Book of Mormon a similar story plays out, wherein the righteous know that his birth is eminent, but unlike in the Holy Land, both the righteous and the wicked know that the time is supposedly near. Samuel the Lamanite prophesied of the birth of Christ and how those in the Americas would know that the time had arrived. The wicked, knowing this and believing that the signs would not occur, threaten to kill all the righteous people.
Nephi, the prophet, “went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people” (2 Ne. 1:11) . Here, much like Simeon, Nephi is told that Christ will be coming soon, but Nephi is told by Christ himself: “the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world…” (3 Ne. 1:13). Once again we see the righteous members of the Church know that the time is imminent, and a priesthood leader is told more specifically of his coming. Noah and others all follow this same pattern.1
It once again reminded me of the recent birth of my son. I had just been thinking “it could still be hours,” and praying that it wouldn’t, when our midwife comes in, checks a few things, asks my wife a few questions, and says “its time for this baby to be born.” Within 20 minutes, he was. Even though she was wise enough to avoid any specific prognostications regarding his birth previously, when all the signs were in place, she easily knew that it was time. It was very similar to another reference to the 2nd coming of Christ:
“Ye look and behold the figtrees, and ye see them with your eyes, and ye say when they begin to shoot forth, and their leaves are yet tender, that summer is now nigh at hand; Even so it shall be in that day when they shall see all these things, then shall they know that the hour is nigh. 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.” (D&C 45:37–39, italics added)
Seek, Watch, Move
All throughout the scriptures we’re told that nobody knows the exact day or hour of Christ’s return to the earth. Just as nobody knew exactly when his birth would be. Look at these examples:
- “And again, verily I say unto you, the coming of the Lord draweth nigh, and it overtaketh the world as a thief in the night— Therefore, gird up your loins, that you may be the children of light, and that day shall not overtake you as a thief.” (D&C 106:4–5)
- “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” (Matt. 25:13)
- “So likewise, mine elect, when they shall see all these things, they shall know that he is near, even at the doors; But of that day, and hour, no one knoweth; no, not the angels of God in heaven, but my Father only.” (JS-M 1:39–40, italics added)
Often I think people (myself included) think something like “well we can’t know when Christ is coming, so why try?” Then studying the 2nd Coming gets put at the bottom of our topical list of things to study. However, look at those scriptures, the implication is clear: when we see the signs, we’ll know when its getting close. Just as I knew that a baby is born around 9 months later, and the Midwife knew we were minutes away, when I thought it could be hours.
But there’s a big ‘if’ implied and stated in these scriptures:
“Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour. Let them, therefore, who are among the Gentiles flee unto Zion. And let them who be of Judah flee unto Jerusalem, unto the mountains of the Lord’s house. Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour. Let them, therefore, who are among the Gentiles flee unto Zion. And let them who be of Judah flee unto Jerusalem, unto the mountains of the Lord’s house. Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon.” (D&C 133:11–13, italics added)
We will only know if we do several things: repent, seek to know the signs (like an OB or Midwife studies birthing), watch for the signs, and spiritually remove ourselves from the world and into Zion. As the previous scripture suggests, one of the best ways is to be in the temple regularly and often. Additionally, the scriptures are the course material for earning our doctorate in “signs of the Savior’s 2nd coming.” Just like a medical student that does a residency to get real world training while watching experienced Doctor’s, the Brethren provide great mentors to “watch,” to learn the ways of “watching” and preparing for the return of Jesus Christ.