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The history surrounding this section had a lot to do with moving to Zion. Now that the location for Zion had been declared, there were tons of Saints who wanted to move there immediately rather than staying in Ohio. Even though the Lord cautioned them to move in slowly (so as to avoid disrupting the current settlers too much), many ignored this caution and moved. During this revelation, the Lord also speaks about His people being unprepared for Zion. Some were guilty of adultery, seeking for signs, and using His name in vain.
Zion has been a major theme in my studies lately, and consequently, so has the Second Coming. The last days will not be for the faint of heart. There will be (and is!) so much fear and misunderstanding and lack of compassion. One verse that I can’t seem to forget is in Doctrine and Covenants where it prophesies that “any man who will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.” It will be a scary world.
Here is what the Lord has to say about it in our current section of study.
Doctrine and Covenants 63:33-34
33 I have sworn in my wrath, and decreed wars upon the face of the earth, and the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man;
34 And the saints also shall hardly escape; nevertheless, I, the Lord, am with them, and will come down in heaven from the presence of my Father and consume the wicked with unquenchable fire.
Wars. Wicked shall slay the wicked. Fear upon every man. The saints shall hardly escape. These verses do not always feel comforting. Sometimes I think about my favorite movies. The main characters always have these wonderful happy endings that are so enviable, but I think we often skim over the trials they faced before. The prophecy in these verses is like the end of an epic story…it IS the end of an epic story. The saints escape but just barely.
I think I like the idea of heroes and heroines barely escaping in novels but it sounds a whole lot less pleasant in real life.
However, despite my lack of excitement over the possibility of barely escaping the trauma of the last days, such is the case. It has been prophesied, and such will be our reality.
As I was studying this section and trying to know what to talk about, I kept getting a prompting to read a conference talk. I didn’t want to read a conference talk; I normally love them, but I also wanted to get my message rolling so I could have it ready for the week. Reading a conference talk doesn’t usually help me in the realm of preparing a message from the scriptures.
However, I finally gave in to the prompting and voila. My topic came. Elder Ballard, in the October 2020 conference, spoke of the importance of prayer as we draw nearer to the Second Coming. Here is one of the verses he referenced.
Luke 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
So previous verses that are found in section 63. “…the saints also shall hardly escape.” In the verse above, “…pray always that ye may be accounted worthy to escape…” Prayer, in its true form, will help us escape the calamities of the last days.
The definition of escape (according to google) surprised me. I assumed it would say something along the lines of, “to get away from something bad happening.” I know that’s poor wording, but I assumed something along that sentiment. The actual definition reads, “break free from confinement or control.”
What exactly are we escaping and how does prayer accomplish that escape?
What are we escaping?
In verse 33 of Section 63, the Lord lays out three specific calamities that will happen during the last days: wars, the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear upon every man.
When it comes to wars, I’m going to broaden that category to “physical disasters.” This would include wars, natural disasters, financial ruin, and sickness. These are things that affect our temporal state dramatically. Physical disaster controls us by limiting our options. When war and natural disasters strike, our options become limited if we’re unprepared. When financial ruin is upon us, our options become limited. When we find ourselves sick, our options become limited. I can think of no better definition of “confinement” than “lack of options.”
The wicked shall slay the wicked. I’m going to name this category, “spiritual disasters.” While “slaying” may seem like a physical disaster, I believe that the physical aspect of it will only be the symptom of the greater problem: spiritual calamity. Ezra Taft Benson taught that Christ changes men differently than men try to change men. While the world tries to change environments, Christ works the other way around. He takes the slums out of men, and they change their environment.
I think the idea of the wicked slaying the wicked may already be happening. That kind of phrasing makes you picture wars between the wicked, but I think there are also subtler forms. Gangs are just one example of this. People trapped in cycles of poverty and abuse killing themselves and others through mediums like hard drugs and violence.
I actually believe that many of these people are victims. When I picture the Lord labeling them as wicked, I don’t always see condemnation. I see mere descriptions. The Lord knows that many of these people are victims of the wicked traditions of their fathers. They are inheriting broken lives. But regardless of whether they’re victims, it is the wickedness that is killing them.
Spiritual disaster is one of the ultimate forms of control or confinement. I don’t even know how to describe that better than the news itself. When there is spiritual calamity, we allow Satan to run our lives and that is a scary prospect. He does not let go easily.
The third thing the Lord mentions is “fear upon every man.” And you guessed it, I’m naming this category, “emotional disasters.” Mental illness is on the rise. Sadness and anger are everywhere, and men’s hearts are failing them. Fear is an agent of paralysis. Fear is a tool used to control people. Sometimes there are people utilizing fear to control others, and sometimes, it’s just Satan using fear to control us.
So how does prayer help us escape?
So “escape” means to break free from confinement or control.
How does prayer help us escape the confinement of physical disaster? Well there are the obvious answers. The Lord can help us know how to prepare for our specific circumstances. We can pray for help in building up supplies. We can pray for safety and for the safety of our family. We can pray to be able to provide for our family. When disaster occurs, Satan would limit our vision and make us believe that we’re stuck. The Lord can open doors and give us options when we ask for it.
How does prayer help us escape spiritual disaster? Another couple obvious answers. The Lord is especially excited to guide us spiritually. I think one of the major ways that He has helped me escape confinement from Satan is to simply make me aware of Satan’s influence. Sometimes I’m being acted upon by Satan and I don’t even recognize. Sometimes I’m so convinced that I’m in the right, that I’m justified, and it is the Spirit that helps me see how I’m hurting myself spiritually.
How does prayer help us escape emotional disaster? Our emotions are powerful, and I think fear especially can be strong. Sometimes we’re acting out of fear and we don’t even realize it. Sometimes we’re so paralyzed by fear that we don’t know how to get out of it. Pray. We can pray for the faith to overcome the fear. We can pray for the perspective that puts our worries in their proper place. We can pray for testimonies to know that the Lord is both powerful and aware of us.
Not everyone will escape. Some of the Saints will still fall victim to the events of the latter days (and I’m speaking mostly of the physical or emotional calamity right now). This has likewise been prophesied. However, when you turn back to Luke 21:36, the verse also recommends praying in order to be worthy to stand before the Son of man. If we could see the other side and those who are on it, we would find so much comfort. The spirit world really is a continuation of our lives here. Those who are praying will be guided and prepared to enter their next phase of life, and though we will miss them here, we will hope to be reunited with them.