Mormon Doctrine: The Rapture

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The word “Rapture,” when referring to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, is understood differently by various Christian faiths. The Bible says that when Christ comes again, those who are righteous will be caught up to meet Him in the air, and that the graves of the dead who died in Christ will be opened and these elect people will be instantly resurrected (Revelation 1:7). This is the basic definition of the Rapture to come. Some Christian faiths envision just one event at the Second Coming of Christ, while others envision two visits or more.

Second Coming of Christ Mormonism
Pre-tribulation rapture theology was developed in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren, and popularized in the United States in the early 20th century by the wide circulation of the Scofield Reference Bible. [1]

Those who have researched Darby’s ideas have found older sources for the pre-tribulation rapture idea, but none older than a few hundred years that can be verified. The idea of a pre-tribulation Rapture holds that the righteous who have faith in Christ will be caught up from the earth before the tribulations prophesied in the Book of Revelation occur, including the rule of an anti-Christ. Many fundamentalist and evangelical Christians believe in this philosophy, as do some traditional Protestants.

Christian writers espouse various manifestations of the expected Rapture, with some envisioning the pre-tribulation Rapture occurring before the seven years of tribulation, some seeing it in the middle of the seven years, some seeing it performed repeatedly with groups of people of varying steadfastness in the faith, and some seeing it just preceding the Second Coming. Many see the Rapture as a secret and preliminary visit of Christ to gather and catch up the elect.

The early original Christian church, as well as the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox churches, the Anglican Communion and many Protestant Calvinist denominations, have no tradition of a preliminary return of Christ and reject the doctrine. [2]

Latter-day Saint Doctrine of Future Tribulation and Comings of Christ

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church, does not use the word “Rapture” in its vocabulary when referring to the Second Coming of Christ. Nor does the Church of Jesus Christ, which has more revelatory scripture and the latter-day revelations of modern prophets to rely on, espouse a belief in a pre-tribulation or mid-tribulation Rapture. Rather, Latter-day Saints are taught by their prophets to be prepared, materially, physically, and spiritually for the bitter tribulations which are to come:

Nor are the days of our greatest sorrows and our deepest sufferings all behind us. They too lie ahead. We shall yet face greater perils, we shall yet be tested with more severe trials, and we shall yet weep more tears of sorrow than we have ever known before. . . .
[W]hat we can see causes us to rejoice and to tremble. We tremble because of the sorrows and wars and plagues that shall cover the earth. We weep for those in the true Church who are weak and wayward and worldly and who fall by the wayside as the caravan of the kingdom rolls forward.
We rejoice because of the glory and honor that awaits those who come forth out of all this tribulation with clean hands and pure hearts (see Ps. 24:4).
Looking ahead, we see the gospel preached in all nations and to every people with success attending. . . .
As the Saints prepare to meet their God, so those who are carnal and sensual and devilish prepare to face their doom.
As the meek among men make their calling and election sure, so those who worship the God of this world sink ever lower and lower into the depths of depravity and despair.
Amid tears of sorrow—our hearts heavy with forebodings—we see evil and crime and carnality covering the earth. Liars and thieves and adulterers and homosexuals and murderers scarcely seek to hide their abominations from our view. Iniquity abounds. There is no peace on earth.
We see evil forces everywhere uniting to destroy the family, to ridicule morality and decency, to glorify all that is lewd and base. We see wars and plagues and pestilence. Nations rise and fall. Blood and carnage and death are everywhere. Gadianton robbers [organized criminals in the Book of Mormon] fill the judgment seats in many nations. An evil power seeks to overthrow the freedom of all nations and countries. Satan reigns in the hearts of men; it is the great day of his power (Bruce R. McConkie, 1980 Conference Talk).

Tribulation and Judgment

Latter-day Saint prophets have foreseen more future tribulation for the Saints than was experienced by Mormon pioneers. The Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of modern revelations, says that the Saints will be protected, but shall barely escape the tribulations to come. Modern prophecy also says that no one church will have a corner on Christ’s protection. Men and women are judged according to their knowledge; without knowledge, there can be no sin. Those who have lived cleanly from all faiths, and whom the Lord knows will accept Him when taught, will be spared the cleansing tribulations and live to enjoy the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. The great type of this is found in the Book of Mormon in 3 Nephi. A terrible destruction preceded the visit of the resurrected Christ to the Book of Mormon peoples, and the more wicked were destroyed. The tribulations included tempests that carried people away in whirlwinds; many cities were sunk into the sea, while others were swallowed in the earth; great earthquakes changed the face of the land completely. Three days of vaporous darkness followed (during the time Christ was in the tomb). Once Christ appeared to minister to the remaining, more righteous, among them, there were some who sought to destroy the twelve disciples (apostles) called to lead and teach the people. However, these too converted, and for two hundred years, the Book of Mormon peoples lived in a Zion society, a utopian society, with no poor among them and no unbelievers, similar to what conditions will be like during the millennium. (See the account here.)

Interestingly, the righteous among the Book of Mormon peoples were protected from the above tribulations in six ways, and the account is specific:

And it was the more righteous part of the people who were saved, and it was they who received the prophets and stoned them not; and it was they who had not shed the blood of the saints, who were spared—
And they were spared and were not sunk and buried up in the earth; and they were not drowned in the depths of the sea; and they were not burned by fire, neither were they fallen upon and crushed to death; and they were not carried away in the whirlwind; neither were they overpowered by the vapor of smoke and of darkness (3 Nephi 10:12–13).

God promises not to keep us completely from trials, which serve to refine us and to turn us to Him, but to spare us as we do so. Those who were saved from devastating destruction surely suffered the loss of loved ones, property, and possessions. However, the stories of the faithful are replete with miracles. If we are faithful, we need not fear:

Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire.
Behold, my brethren, I say unto you, that these things must shortly come; yea, even blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke must come; and it must needs be upon the face of this earth; and it cometh unto men according to the flesh if it so be that they will harden their hearts against the Holy One of Israel.
For behold, the righteous shall not perish. (1 Nephi 22:17–19)

Comings of Christ

Modern scripture upholds the descriptions of the Second Coming as prophesied in the Holy Bible.

And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.
And angels shall fly through the midst of heaven, crying with a loud voice, sounding the trump of God, saying: Prepare ye, prepare ye, O inhabitants of the earth; for the judgment of our God is come. Behold, and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
And immediately there shall appear a great sign in heaven, and all people shall see it together.
And another angel shall sound his trump, saying: That great church, the mother of abominations, that made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, that persecuteth the saints of God, that shed their blood—she who sitteth upon many waters, and upon the islands of the sea—behold, she is the tares of the earth; she is bound in bundles; her bands are made strong, no man can loose them; therefore, she is ready to be burned. And he shall sound his trump both long and loud, and all nations shall hear it.
And there shall be silence in heaven for the space of half an hour; and immediately after shall the curtain of heaven be unfolded, as a scroll is unfolded after it is rolled up, and the face of the Lord shall be unveiled;
And the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him.
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—
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 (Doctrine and Covenants 88:91–98).

This is the “Rapture” in Latter-day Saint belief, that the righteous living will be caught up, and the graves of the righteous opened at the moment of Christ’s Second Coming. Therefore, there will have been no “Rapture” before then.

Adam Ondi Ahman Mormonism
Adam-ondi-Ahman in modern Missouri

This event is not the same as the Lord’s appearance on the Mt. of Olives wherein He saves the more righteous Jews from slaughter at the conclusion of the War of Armageddon. The Armageddon experience will precede the Second Coming. Also preceding the Second Coming will be at least two other appearances of Christ — the coming of Christ to His temple, and His conference at Adam-ondi-Ahman in Missouri (the site of the original Garden of Eden), where the prophets will turn the keys of their dispensations over to Adam, who will then give all the keys to Christ for His millennial reign on the earth.

Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the Lord your God, and hear the word of the Lord concerning you—The Lord who shall suddenly come to his temple; the Lord who shall come down upon the world with a curse to judgment; yea, upon all the nations that forget God, and upon all the ungodly among you (Doctrine and Covenants 133:1, 2).

Note that Christ has already “suddenly come to His temple,” but it is unknown whether this is the visit associated with His Second Coming. (Read about it here.)

The great convocation and turning over the keys of all dispensations is described in Section 27 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth (v. 5) . . . [here is listed a number of the prophets who will be at this holy convocation] . . . And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days; And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them; Unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; And also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world (vv. 11–14).
Spring Hill is named by the Lord Adam-ondi-Ahman, because, said he, it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet (Section 116; see also Section 107).

The Wicked Consumed

Latter-day Saints, along with other Christians, believe that the world will be consumed by fire and the wicked destroyed at the Second Coming of Christ. This fire will be Christ’s glory, which the righteous will be able to withstand, having been quickened by the Holy Spirit, but which will burn the wicked as stubble.