As of late, I have been seeing crazy things going on in the news, around the world etc. How do we know that the signs are completed if something happened to our devices, the news, etc, and how do we find peace now when the world seems to be going dark and turbulent? Thanks,
The signs of the Second Coming of Christ are of great value to the saints who await His return. When such signs and prophecies are fulfilled (as when Elijah returned as Malachi (4:5-6) foretold) it serves as a witness by which we “may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.” (D&C 110:16). But such signs are worthless if 1) we don’t know what they are, or 2) we do not observe them.
Fortunately, the Lord has revealed several signs that will precede His coming in glory. These signs are scattered throughout the scriptures but many are included thematically, such as in D&C 1, 45, 133, the book of Revelation, and in Joseph Smith’s inspired translation of Matthew 24. In Joseph Smith-Matthew, for instance, the Lord is not keeping the signs as some secret, but is openly answering his disciples who ask about it. The signs include the gathering of the elect, wars, famines, earthquakes, iniquity, the gospel preached to all the world, the destruction of Jerusalem, the sun and moon darkened, and finally the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven. Please note that while many of the signs appear in the sky, not every astronomical event is a sign. For instance, solar and lunar eclipses are explicitly listed among the signs of the times; a full moon on Friday the 13th is not. Similarly, one of the signs is that the whole earth will be in commotion (D&C 45:26), but it does not specify that “commotion” as the destruction of news sources and electronic media (some of us who are more seasoned might argue that the prevalence of our Internet devices is the cause of all this commotion). A familiarity with what the signs actually are will prevent us from being blown about by every pretended harbinger.
Nonetheless, let’s assume that in one of the wars or rumors of wars that are prophesied an electromagnetic pulse disables our electronics, including televisions, computers, cell phones, and so forth. Even old fashioned print media will take a massive hit as journalists and editors get retrained on pre-digital processes. What value would the signs be if we can’t observe them? Here again we’re rescued by having a knowledge of what the signs are. Review that short list I took from Joseph Smith-Matthew. If your region were without electricity, you could still directly observe wars (isn’t that what caused our hypothetical), famine, earthquake, iniquity, and the sun and the moon darkened (that might actually be even more noticeable without electricity). The ones that you wouldn’t notice right away are the global ones, such as the gospel being preached to all the world or those calamities which happen in other lands. If these hadn’t already been fulfilled when the pulse hit, you wouldn’t know when they were fulfilled until word traveled back to you (which it will, news found a way to get around the world with little more than diesel engines and the printing press) but you would still find out in time.
The Lord seems to anticipate your question with regards to the “sign of the Son of Man in heaven”, for He revealed that “immediately [when] there shall appear a great sign in heaven, and all people shall see it together.” (D&C 88:93). When the final sign comes, it will be visible to those plugged in and to luddites! Joseph Smith described this sign in the April 6, 1843 conference.
“Then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the East.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 287).
Brother James Burgess’s notes of that sermon captures the analogy but clarifies the dichotomy between the world and the expectant saints. The deciding factor in recognizing the final sign is whether or not a person is in tune, not online.
“He [Joseph] says then shall they see the sign of the comeing of the Son of Man in the clouds of Heaven. How are we to see it ans[wer], As the lighting up of the morning or the dawning of the morning cometh from the east and Shineth unto the west— So also is the comeing of the Son of Man. The dawning of the morning makes its appearance in the east and moves along gradualy s[o] also will the comeing of the Son of Man be. it will be small at its first appearance and gradually becomes larger untill every eye shall see it. Shall the Saints understand it Oh yes, Paul says so. Shall the wicked understand Oh no they attribute it to a natural cause. They will probably suppose it is two great Comets comeing in contact with each other. It will be small at first and will grow larger and larger until it will be all in a blaze so that every eye shall see it.” (“Discourse, 6 April 1843–B, as Reported by James Burgess,” p. , The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed June 18, 2017, The Joseph Smith Papers Discourse 6 April 1843 by James Burgess
Finally, how can a person be at peace as the signs are fulfilled? First, I reiterate the importance of knowing the signs of the Second Coming of Christ. A lot of unnecessary anxiety can be spared by knowing what the Lord has revealed on the subject. Second, I reiterate the importance of righteous living. If Jesus does not return in our lifetime, we will still be sifted and should still live so that we may be found on His right hand. President Uchtdorf reminds us of these principles, and provides us with additional keys for finding peace in these times:
“We are charged with studying the word of God and heeding the voice of the Spirit, that we may ‘know the signs of the times, and the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.’
“We are, therefore, not ignorant of the challenges of the world, nor are we unaware of the difficulties of our times. But this does not mean that we should burden ourselves or others with constant fear. Rather than dwelling on the immensity of our challenges, would it not be better to focus on the infinite greatness, goodness, and absolute power of our God, trusting Him and preparing with a joyful heart for the return of Jesus the Christ? …
“… Do we live in a time of peril and turmoil? Of course we do.
“God Himself has said, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’ … Therefore, let us set aside our fears and live instead with joy, humility, hope, and a bold confidence that the Lord is with us.” (Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear, April 2017 General Conference).