Forty days after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He met one last time with his apostles at the Mount of Olives. They asked him if the time had come for the gathering of Israel, to which He responded, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” He reminded them of their duty, which was to be witnesses of Him in all the world. Then, He ascended into heaven, “and a cloud received him out of their sight” (Acts 1:6-9).
As they stood looking upward, two angels appeared to them with a remarkable message:
Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).
During this time, Jesus also visited a group of believers on the American continent. We don’t have a complete description of that multi-day visit, but we do know that, on the first day, He arrived by descending from heaven, and He departed by ascending into heaven (3 Nephi 11:8, 3 Nephi 18:38-39).
During the visit, the Savior shared some of the prophecies of Malachi, including the following:
The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.
But who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap.
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness (3 Nephi 24:1-3, Malachi 3:1-3).
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord;
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse (3 Nephi 25:5-6, Malachi 4:5-6).
What is “the day of His coming?” What is “the great and dreadful day of the Lord?” Mormon does not record the Savior’s explanation of these passages. He only tells us that the Savior “did expound all things, even from the beginning until the time that he should come in his glory” (3 Nephi 26:3).
Mormon concludes his description of the Savior’s American ministry by informing us that the publication of the Book of Mormon will coincide with the gathering of Israel and will precede the return of the Savior:
When the Lord shall see fit, in his wisdom, that these sayings shall come unto the Gentiles according to his word, then ye may know that the covenant which the Father hath made with the children of Israel, concerning their restoration to the lands of their inheritance, is already beginning to be fulfilled.
And ye may know that the words of the Lord, which have been spoken by the holy prophets, shall all be fulfilled; and ye need not say that the Lord delays his coming unto the children of Israel (3 Nephi 29:1-2).
From these passages, we learn the following:
- The Savior’s Second Coming will happen suddenly. It will catch the unprepared off guard.
- We need to be refined and purified by Him in order to be prepared for that day.
- Before that day, the prophet Elijah will come. This event occurred at the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836. Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon and restored priesthood power necessary to seal families together in temples. (See Doctrine and Covenants 110:13-16.)
- The publication of the Book of Mormon is a sign that the Savior will soon return.
Why must the Book of Mormon and the coming of Elijah precede the Savior’s Second Coming? Because there must be people ready to meet Him when He comes. As President Russell M. Nelson taught earlier this week:
The crowning jewel of the Restoration is the holy temple. Its sacred ordinances and covenants are pivotal to preparing a people who are ready to welcome the Savior at His Second Coming (“Closing Remarks,” General Conference, October 2019).
Today, I will be grateful for the tools God has given to help me and others prepare for the return of His Son to the earth. I will remember that the Book of Mormon and the temple can refine and purify us so that we will be ready to meet Him when He comes.