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Question: How can one reconcile alleged unfulfilled prophecies of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming given in patriarchal blessings?
Question: How can one reconcile prophecies of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming given in Patriarchal Blessings?
Introduction to Question
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in modern day prophecy. Prophecy is not limited to the president of the Church (considered to be a prophet by faithful members) but can also extend to fathers of a family, and men assigned to different stakes known as Patriarchs. As a member of the Church, one can receive what is known as a Patriarchal Blessings. These Patriarchs can be moved to give “admonistions, promises, and assurances. Individual traits of personality and strengths and weaknesses may be mentioned. Against the backdrop of the prophetic anticipation of world events, individual roles and callings may be named. One’s spiritual gifts, talents, skills, and potentials may be specified with their associated obligations of gratitude and dedication.”
Among members of the Church, it is sometimes heard that among these “admonitions, promises, and assurances” can be found prophecies that a person will see the Savior’s face by witnessing the second coming. These people have passed on and the Second Coming has not happened. Thus some wonder whether Patriarchs are actually receiving revelation.
This article will respond to this question in light of Latter-day Saint theology. The author is not aware of an instance in which this has actually been documented and thus doubts that such blessings actually exist, but will also respond to the question as if it’s true. Several suggestions might be made depending on how a patriarchal blessing actually words this promise.
Response to Question
Doctrine and Covenants 49:7
The reason that this author doubts that documentation exists for this promise is that most of these claims come from hearsay rather than the documents themselves. These might simply be faith-promoting rumors that can sometimes be heard around the Church. Many of these have been responded to on the FairMormon website.
Another reason is that the scriptures, the source of official doctrine for the Church, declare that man shall not know when the Savior’s Second Coming until he actually comes. Doctrine and Covennats 49:7 reads:
- 7 I, the Lord God, have spoken it; but the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes.
So right at the outset we must doubt that this criticism/question is indeed true.
Some people may have actually seen the Savior in the flesh. This may happen if the blessing promises that people will “be in the flesh and see the Savior’s face” or something along those lines. It is possible that people are promised this. Those people may be placed under strict command to not impart that knowledge to other people given how sacred it is. Alma 12: 9-10 reads:
- 9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
- 10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
Coming Forth in the First Resurrection
One way to potentially view these blessings is in the context of the doctrine of the Resurrection. At the Savior's coming, Latter-day Saints believe that those that have been righteous in this life will be the first to be resurrected. Those who have not been righteous will be resurrected after the First Resurrection. Doctrine and Covenants 88: 97-98, speaking of the First Resurrection, states:
- 97 And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven—
- 98 They are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God.
One way to interpret these alleged promises is to see them as promises that these people will be among those that come forth in the First Resurrection. At his coming, they'll be caught up into heaven to descend with the Savior. Thus, in a sense, they are on the earth at his coming. The fulfillment of such promises are obviously contingent upon the individual's faithfulness and obedience to the commandments of God.
Another possibility, though much more unofficial doctrine and speculative, is that God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge of all logical actualities of the future. It could be that plans for the Second Coming were being made by God and that subsequent events made it so that those plans changed.
Why do scriptures say he’ll come soon?
A somewhat more tangential question that can be addressed here is why the scriptures give many assurances that the Savior is always coming soon. Why is it that these scriptures say that? Shouldn’t people’s patriarchal blessings reflect this promise?
In a way the Savior must always be such. If he promises that his coming is far off, then people won’t be motivated to repent. If he doesn’t promise a second coming at all, then we get the same result. If it’s “soon,” but not specific, then it works on our hearts to create urgency since it could be at any moment. Thus the language the Savior employs can be used to create a relationship with us. Him as the Savior and us as his motivated and ready disciples.
Latter-day Saints should be wary of those that make these types of promises as they don’t accord with the scriptures. Patriarchs should be aware of what the scriptures declare and not be motivated to try and make any such promises.