I recently received this email from one of my readers:
How about a post on LDS Eschatology?
Do Mormons believe in things similar to evangelical 'end times' scenarios like....
A Rapture - 7 year tribulation with the beast/antichrist ruling a one world government - ending in Armageddon - and culminating in a millennium rule of Christ on earth.
Or more like...Christ returns - resurrection of the dead - millennial rule - eternity?
Thanks for the question. I must first say I've been very busy this week and haven't had the time I need to gather together much information on the topic. However, I will do my best to answer these questions in a straight-forward way.
Rapture and Tribulation
I have never read anything in LDS literature (or in the Bible for that matter!) that supports this concept of a rapture. As I understand this teaching, some Christians believe that 7 years (some 3 1/2 years) before Christ's coming, the saved will be taken off of planet earth while the devil is allowed free reign. This period will be accompanied by war, pestilence, disease, death, terrible wickedness and destruction. The anti-Christ will then reign over the earth under the direction of the devil. This will be brought to an end when Christ returns to earth, destroys the wicked, and begins his 1000 year reign with the saved.
This idea is often based on Matt. 24:41:
Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
In this belief system, those who are here "taken" are the righteous who are taken up to heaven before the tribulation. This is reflected in bumper stickers that I've seen that say "Caution, this car will be without driver at the rapture" or similar things.
Can Matt. 24:41 be interpreted this way correctly? Absolutely not. Why not? Like so many scriptures, the context makes it's meaning clear.
"But of that day [the second coming of Jesus] and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left" (Matt 24:36-41).
The comparison is clear: in the days of Noah the flood "took [the wicked] all away" and at the second coming of Jesus, the wicked "shall be taken." In an ironic twist, it is the righteous that remain and are not taken. In other words, the reference to being taken refers to the fact that the Lord will destroy the wicked when He comes to rule and reign on earth.
Second Coming and Resurrection
Latter-day Saints believe that Christ will literally return to earth with the same body that he took up from the tomb in Jerusalem. His second coming is soon at hand, but how soon no one knows. At the time of his return, they "who are Christ's" will be resurrected and will come with him to reign on earth. The saints who are yet alive will also be caught up to meet him and come with him at his coming. At this time the earth will be burned, the wicked destroyed, and the world purified.
Latter-day Saints also believe that Jerusalem will be redeemed and the temple restored before Christ's coming under the direction of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in conjunction with the converted of Judah. New Jerusalem will also be built with it's temple in Jackson County, Missouri. These things will happen before Christ comes. LDS interpret Isaiah 2:2 as having reference to the redemption of Jerusalem and the building of New Jerusalem ("Zion") and a day when the ecclesiastical authority will be based in Jerusalem while the political center will be based in the USA.
I realize this isn't very thorough. Your comments, questions, and so forth are more than welcome.
I'd refer you to these important LDS writings on the topic for more information:
Doctrine and Covenants 29
Doctrine and Covenants 45
Doctrine and Covenants 77
Doctrine and Covenants 133
Preperation for the Second Coming
Dallin H. Oaks: The Second Coming of Christ
The Gathering of Scattered Israel
Joseph Smith on The Second Coming and the Millennium
Brigham Young on The Last Days, Millennium, etc
Joseph F. Smith: Preparing for the Second Coming of Christ
Wilford Woodruff: Preparing for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ