The timing of the Lord Jesus Christ’s second coming is unknown. No matter its timing, we should live optimistically and plan for the future.
This speech was given on July 10, 2001.
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"It is a pleasure to be here today among friends, colleagues, and students. As I was seated upon the stand and thinking about what I might say to introduce my topic, it dawned on me how things have really come full circle. It doesn’t seem like it was very long ago when I was in your seats here as a student myself at the university. And, interestingly enough for me personally, I notice seated upon the stand two professors who had a profound impact upon my own education and on what I would eventually do for a living. You have heard from one, Brother Donald Q. Cannon, who gave the opening prayer. He was a very important teacher in my life who directed my attention to the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He encouraged my pursuit of a degree in that field and has been a kind friend, colleague, and important mentor ever since. Also upon the stand is associate academic vice president Noel Reynolds. Professor Reynolds was one of my political science professors. And since that time he has been a good friend and mentor.
Today I would like to talk about the Second Coming, but I would like to talk specifically about two aspects that I call related but separate issues. The first aspect is the timing of the Second Coming and the second is the emphasis we sometimes place on the prophecies that tend to highlight the terrible days and tribulation that lie ahead for the generation who will witness this long-prophesied event.
I often come into class the first day wearing sunglasses, so I am going to put on a pair of sunglasses right now to illustrate an important point. This is where we’ll begin today. All of us, whether we know it or not, wear a pair of glasses. The color, the tint of the lens, is determined by our social and academic background, our experience, our ethnicity, our gender, and also our religious convictions. Sometimes we go a long time without having our eyes checked, and therefore we wear glasses from an old prescription. So not only do we have a tint of color in our glasses, but sometimes the glasses are out of focus. I remember one difficult year during graduate school. You can imagine starting a family while in a PhD program and living on a shoestring budget. I broke a pair of glasses and decided that I couldn’t afford a new pair. So I went for about six months before I finally went to the optometrist and got a new prescription and a new pair of glasses. When I came out of his office, I literally stood on the sidewalk disoriented as I attempted to focus. And I said to myself, “Boy, I forgot that blades of grass can actually be discerned.” In six months my eyes had changed tremendously.
When we worship together on Sunday; go to the temple; attend classes here at BYU in the sciences, humanities, mathematics, arts, religion, and all other fields; attend general conference; and receive blessings and counsel from our friends, part of the purpose in these endeavors is to get a better prescription—that is, to try to get a better pair of glasses and eliminate the artificial color and blurring of our vision. Changing our glasses can affect the way we see the world. And so today I would ask all of us to take off our glasses—the way we generally look at the Second Coming—and try to look through a new pair of lenses, which, I pray, will give us a better understanding.
Paul the Apostle put it another way: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Although the modern reader of the King James Version may not quite get the proper reading of the text from the language of 1611, we generally understand what he is saying. Let me restate the quote in modern phrasing: “During mortality,” Paul would say, “we look into an bronze mirror and see ourselves as a reversed and distorted image. Someday, however, we will see a perfect view of ourselves and the world, not reversed like a mirror and not distorted like an ancient bronze mirror.”
The Timing of the Second Coming
It has not been unusual for nearly every generation who has lived on the earth since the mortal ministry of Jesus Christ to believe they might witness the terrible events immediately preceding the Second Coming and be present at His coming. Apparently even some first-century Saints thought they lived in the “last days”;..."