Conference Report
Signs of the Times
Bishop LeGrand Richards
Presiding Bishop of the Church

LeGrand Richards, Conference Report, April 1951, pp. 39-45

My brothers and sisters, I feel humble as I stand here this day but grateful to the Lord for my association with his people and his great Church. I should like to express the love of my father's family and myself and my wife and children for our worthy president, President George Albert Smith. He has been a great friend to all of us, and we have loved him deeply, and we have honored him in his high and holy calling as the President of this Church. What I say this afternoon, I pray the Lord will direct, that it will help to inspire others to want to live nearer to the Lord and keep his commandments and help to build his kingdom here in the earth.

VISIT OF YOUNG LADY

A few weeks ago, a young lady phoned me for an appointment; and when she came to the office, she sat there and cried for a little while and then she said: "I guess I'm jittery."

" Well," I said, "that's all right." Then when she had composed herself, she said, "Bishop, what is there for the young people today? We have war. They are taking all the boys; it looks like another great war is ahead of us. What do we young people have to live for?"

I looked at her for a few minutes and said, "Have you ever thought of the other side of the story?"

She said, "What side?"

"Well," I said, "you remember the story of the two buckets that went down in the well; as the one came up, it said, 'This is surely a cold and dreary world. No matter how many times I come up full, I always have to go down empty?' Then the other bucket laughed and said, 'With me it is different. No matter how many times I go down empty, I always come up full.'"

I said, "Have you ever stopped to realize that of all the millions of our Father's children, you are one of the most favored? You are privileged to live in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times that the prophets of old have looked forward to, when there is more revealed truth upon the earth than there has ever been in any other dispensation of the world's history, and where we enjoy blessings and comforts of life that kings did not enjoy a few years ago. Have you ever stopped to think of that side of the story?"

And before she left, she decided that probably it wasn't as cold and dreary a world, after all, as it might be.

I said, "You just go on, and live right, and don't you lose your courage, and don't think that life isn't worth while and isn't worth living. Whether you live or whether you die or whether you are permitted to live a long life or a short life isn't going to be the thing that is going to determine the success or failure of your life; it's how you live. And if we only live right, it will not matter whether the time is short or long; we won't have to worry much about it."

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

As I thought about that conversation, I thought of the words of the Savior. On one occasion, the Pharisees and the Sadducees came to him, and tempting him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven. And Jesus answering said unto them,

. . . When it is evening, ye say. It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.

And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? (Matt. 16:2-3).

If the world could discern the signs of the times, it would not be difficult for them to understand that the God of Israel has set his hand to do a marvelous work and a wonder among his people in the earth (Isa. 29:14) and that there is a kingdom established that is ultimately destined to fill the whole earth (Dan. 2:35). And it will do it because it is God's work and not the work of man.

While I was president of the Southern States Mission, one of our missionaries wrote in from Florida and said, "President Richards, I have been reading about the signs of the coming of the Lord." He said, "When the sun darkens and the moon ceases to give its light and the stars fall from heaven (Matt. 24:29), everybody will know that he is coming.

And I wrote back and said, "Probably they will know. The newspapers might announce some great phenomenon in the heavens, misplacement of planets, that have caused this consternation, and scientists will have their explanation to make of it, and unless they have faith in the Living God, unless as Jesus said, they can read the signs of the times, they may not know anything about what is going on in the world.

"Why," I said, "if the inhabitants of this earth had the ability and the power to read the signs of the times, they would know that already the Lord has given far more than the darkening of the sun or obscuring the light of the moon or causing the stars to fall from heaven, for what he has accomplished in the establishment of his kingdom in the earth in these latter days, and the unseen power operating in the world for the accomplishment of his purposes, are greater signs than any of these phenomena that we read about—the signs of his coming."

GATHERING OF ISRAEL

Now, I want to bear my testimony to you that I know God has set his hand to gather scattered Israel (Isa. 11:11), just as Moroni told the Prophet Joseph (JS—H 1:40), as part of this work, before there was any organization of the Church, before there was any priesthood or power to officiate in the name of the Lord.

The Angel Moroni told the Prophet Joseph that, quoting the words of Isaiah, the Lord should gather scattered Israel and bring in the dispersed of Judah and set up an ensign for the nations (Isa. 11:12). Well, hasn't he done it? Let us consider what has happened here in these valleys of the mountains as a part of the fulfillment of the promises the Lord has made through his prophets of old: how he should cause the waters to flow down from the high places where it has been reservoired in these mountains, how the rivers should flow in the deserts (and if you go up through Idaho and see those great canals out of that Snake River, you will see that those canals are larger than the average rivers you see in the world), and how the waters should spring up in the dry places (Isa. 41:18). When I was in Arizona recently, I saw pipes at least twenty inches in diameter running day and night, all the time, full of water, and as I saw them, I said to myself, this is what the prophets saw when the Lord declared through their mouths that he would turn the wilderness and make it to blossom as the rose (Isa. 35:1-2,6-7). And we are living here in that day.

PROPHECIES BEING FULFILLED

And then he said that he would cause the daughters of Zion to come up and sing in the heights of Zion (Jer. 31:12), and where in all the world is there anything to compare with what has gone out of this tabernacle from the heights of Zion, week after week, for these twenty odd years as the Tabernacle Choir has broadcast to the world?

Where could you pick a group out of any other school like this group that is here today? (I'm referring to the mixed chorus from the Brigham Young University furnishing the music for this session of conference.)

God bless the youth of Zion. They are following in the footsteps of their parents. They love the Church, and they have a testimony of the divinity of it, I know, through my association with these young people.

And then read the words of Isaiah, where he saw the house of the Lord established in the tops of the mountains in the last days and he saw that all nations should flow unto it (Isa. 2:2), and they would say:

. . . Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths (Isa. 2:3).

Has that ever happened in this world before? And if the Lord is about to come, as he has indicated that he would in these latter days, in the establishment of his kingdom, should we not have a fulfillment of these promises? And then Isaiah goes on to tell us when that time would be, because he adds:

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isa. 2:4).

Ever since I was a small boy, I have thrilled every time I have heard the words spoken to John upon the Isle of Patmos when the voice from heaven said, "Come up hither and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter" (Rev. 4:1). Then John said:

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,

Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come (Rev. 14:6-7).

I have always understood that the coming of this angel with the everlasting gospel, and there can be no other, should precede the great judgments of the Lord.

SIGNS OF SECOND COMING

You will remember, when Jesus was upon the Mount of Olives his disciples came to him, and he told them how the temple should be broken down, that there should not be one stone left upon another (Matt. 24:1-2). Then they said,

Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (Matt. 24:3).

He proceeded to tell them of the wars and destruction that should come upon the nations (Matt. 24:6-7), and that there should be tribulations such as had not been known from the beginning of the world and should not be known until the end (Matt. 24:21).

Those of us who know of the numbers who were killed during the last world war know that we have lived in the day when tribulations have come to this world the like of which the world has never known from the beginning of time. Of course, we do not know just what that the end is going to be, or whether we have reached that end or not. As another sign, the Savior made this statement:

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Matt. 24:14).

MISSIONARY SYSTEM

A friend of mine sent me a newspaper clipping from Los Angeles the other day. It gives a report of the growth of the churches. It goes on to say, "The Mormon Church, devoting a great deal of effort to the missionary field, is one of the fastest growing orders in the world"—not just in the Rocky Mountains—but in the world. How could the gospel be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations before the end should come, without a system of having it preached such as the great missionary system of this Church. To me it is one of the most marvelous things this world has ever produced. To think that the Church can send missionaries by the thousands, and they don't have to be paid for going!

One sister came into my office a few weeks ago for me to interview her missionary boy, and she said: "Bishop, I have a son in Switzerland. I have a daughter in the Great Lakes Mission. Here's my last boy." She was not very well clad. And I looked at her and said, "Sister, can you do it?"

She replied: "We will make it some way."

That is the kind of faith that is going to carry the gospel message to every land and every clime. And that kind of faith has been in this Church from the very beginning, and it will continue because it is God's work, and that unseen power that motivates it will continue to carry it on.

NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S DREAM

When you read an article such as the one I just quoted from the newspaper in Los Angeles, it is not difficult for you to understand what Daniel saw when he interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's dream, when he saw that the God of heaven in the last days should set up a kingdom, like a little stone cut out of the mountain without hands, that should roll forth and fall upon the kingdoms of this world, and they should all be destroyed (Dan. 2:44-45), and the little stone should become as a great mountain and fill the whole earth (Dan. 2:35).

Why will it become as a great mountain? Because it is builded upon eternal truth!

And God can plant in the hearts of his children, for he created the feelings of the human soul, a willingness to preach the truth until it shall ultimately triumph over all the kingdoms of this world.

In Florida, one of our missionary boys preached on that subject in one of our meetings. At the close of the meeting I stood at the door to shake hands with the people, and a minister of the gospel came up and introduced himself to me.

He said, "You don't mean to say that you think that little stone is the Mormon Church, do you?"

I said, "Why not?"

He said, "It couldn't be."

"Well, why couldn't it?"

He said, "Well, you can't have a kingdom without a King. And you don't have a king, so you haven't a kingdom."

"Oh," I said, "my friend, you didn't read quite far enough. You just read the seventh chapter of Daniel, and there you will see that Daniel saw one like the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, and there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him (Dan. 7:13-14). "Now," I said, "tell me, how is a kingdom going to be given to him when he comes in the clouds of heaven if there is no kingdom prepared for him? Maybe you would like to know what is going to become of that kingdom. And if you will read a little farther, you will see that Daniel said: 'But the Saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever.' And as if that were not quite long enough, Daniel adds, 'even forever and ever'" (Dan. 7:18).

That is what the Latter-day Saints are working for. That is the work they have to do. That is the blessing the Lord has in store for them. And there is no power under heaven that can stop it growing because it is his kingdom, and he will see it on to its ultimate destiny. It is the only time in the history of the world that God has set a work afoot with a promise decreed that it should ultimately subdue all the powers and the kingdoms of this world and should stand forever.

DISPENSATION OF THE FULLNESS OF TIMES

My time is gone. You add to this, in your own thinking, the coming of Elijah, the prophet, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord should come, because the whole earth was to be utterly wasted at the coming of the Lord if Elijah failed to come (Mal. 4:5-6; JS—H 1:38-39). Then add the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the companion volume of scripture which the Lord promised he would join to the Bible and make them one in his hands (Ezek. 37:15-20). Then remember Paul's declaration that the Lord had made known the mysteries of his will, that in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in him (Eph. 1:10). There has never been a program to accomplish that objective in the history of the world, so far as our records indicate, until we had the coming of Elijah with his great sealing power of binding the dead that have gone beyond, as Paul said, "for they without us cannot be made perfect, nor we without them" (Heb. 11:40; D&C 128:15,18).

Now, brothers and sisters, if your boys and girls are worried about what is going to become of them, just let them acquire in the depths of their souls a testimony of the value of being privileged to live in this the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, when God literally has set his hand to do a marvelous work and a wonder, as he promised to do, and then let us not be like the hypocrites, "Ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" (Matt. 16:3).

God help us to understand the signs of the times, I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.