In the day of Nephi, son of Helaman, many had given up on the prophecy of Samuel the Lamanite coming to pass. His prophecy said that in 5 years the sign of the Messiah’s birth would be given.
I’m sure many people were counting down the days and even set apart a day that if the sign wasn’t given, they were going to kill everyone who still believed in these things.
It was coming down to the wire with Nephi, and he was getting worried about their situation.
Now it came to pass that when Nephi, the son of Nephi, saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful. And it came to pass that he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith in the tradition of their fathers.3 Nephi 1:10-11
I think we can wrongly assume that God’s servants know absolutely everything about God’s plan including exactly when and where every event will transpire.
In this moment of uncertainty, Nephi became very concerned that he would see his people wiped out. He turns to the Lord and prays all day for guidance:
And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord all that day; and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying: Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.3 Nephi 1:12-13
Nephi didn’t know until the night before even just hours before the sign was given. What isn’t said in the record is if he even told the people about this or they were left to wait in faith and see it for themselves.
Think of how terrifying that must have been for them all, but how rewarding when the promised sign actually came and their lives were saved.
One might wonder though how useful Nephi was to the people when he didn’t even know what was going on. Wasn’t he supposed to be a prophet with, you know, prophecy capabilities?
Well, prophets don’t necessarily predict the future all the time. Their main job, if you look in the Bible dictionary, is to be a “forth-teller” rather than a “fore-teller” meaning that their chief duty is to call people to repentance which Nephi did both before and after.
True safety doesn’t come in simply avoiding bad events, but in being right with God. If you are right with God, it doesn’t really matter if you live or die; salvation from spiritual death is the only true safety.
Now one might think that with such an impressive sign that was done plainly in the eyes of all people, that it would have convinced everyone to turn to God; sadly this was not the case. It seems that immediately after the sign, Satan began his propaganda again:
And it came to pass that from this time forth there began to be lyings sent forth among the people, by Satan, to harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe in those signs and wonders which they had seen;3 Nephi 1:22
These are uncertain times as well. Unprecedented travel bans and quarantines have been implemented. Church meetings have been canceled and there is much panic going around.
Some people have been floating the idea of President Nelson’s words about the next conference being “different” and his admonition to “take your vitamin pills” and getting “rest” as being prophetic or specific to these events.
Perhaps they were prophetic, and certainly, there’s going to be people that would argue otherwise.
I do believe that the Lord reveals his secrets to his servants the prophets but there is a lot that we don’t understand about exactly what he reveals. It’s wise to listen to their words with the Spirit.
Regardless of what the truth is behind these events, I think it’s a great time for reflection and a deepening of our relationship with God. This Sunday is going to be a literal “home church” and I am so grateful that we have been well-prepared for this kind of situation. As school is getting canceled as well, we have the new youth program which I think is fantastic and can help the youth continue to focus on their growth.
The Book of Mormon is a testament to the grace of God by its very existence. It isn’t just a sign that he is still with us, but that great things are coming soon.