Earthquakes are caused by the movement of tectonic plates comprising the surface of the earth. Earthquakes are spoken of in the scriptures as events connected with spiritual upheaval and wickedness. The scriptures predict that earthquakes will increase in the last days and end with an earthquake that will completely change the face of the earth at the coming of Christ.
Earthquakes in the Holy Land
Israel lies on an active fault zone that has been the scene of very major earthquakes during recorded history. Major earthquakes have occurred in Israel about every 400 years, especially along the Jordan Valley (the Jordan Rift Fault, which runs north and south through the valley) in the years 31 B.C.E., 363 C.E., 749 C.E., and 1033 C.E.  A major earthquake is spoken of by the prophet Zechariah in his biblical account. While Zechariah predicts the coming of the Messiah, he also refers to this devastating quake:
- And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
- And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee (Zechariah 14:4-5).
Amos 1:1 refers to the same earthquake.
At the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, and three other wicked "cities of the plain," the area around what is now the Dead Sea, the earth shook and spewed forth "fire and brimstone." The area had been a beautiful and verdant plain before the earthquake. Now the valley is 1300 feet below sea level; the Dead Sea is 1300 feet deep, the lowest point on earth. The brackish water is so laden with salts and other minerals, that not even brine shrimp can live in in. People have died who have choked while swimming in the lake.
- And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath (Deuteronomy 29:23).
- Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God (Matthew 27:54).
- And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it (Matthew 28:2).
When Christ descends upon the Mount of Olives to save the Children of Israel from destruction after 3 1/2 years of the War of Armageddon, the mount will cleave in twain. This earthquake will be world-wide and will transform the face of the earth.
- And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city [Jerusalem] fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
- And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail (Revelation 11:13, 19).
- And then shall the Lord set his foot upon this mount, and it shall cleave in twain, and the earth shall tremble, and reel to and fro, and the heavens also shall shake (Doctrine and Covenants 45:48).
Earthquakes recorded in the Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon peoples, descendants of Israelites who lived in the Americas, lived according to the Law of Moses, looking forward to the coming of Christ. Their prophets predicted that Christ would be born in Bethlehem to a virgin mother, would teach, bear much affliction, and be crucified for the sins of the world. The Book of Mormon prophets predicted when these events would occur, and signs were given that testified of the reality of the events. Upon the birth of Christ, the Book of Mormon peoples witnessed a night with no darkness:
- And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came.
- And it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. And it came to pass that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given (3 Nephi 1:15, 19).
There was also a sign of Christ's death.
- And now it came to pass that according to our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record—for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity—
- And now it came to pass, if there was no mistake made by this man in the reckoning of our time, the thirty and third year had passed away;
- And the people began to look with great earnestness for the sign which had been given by the prophet Samuel, the Lamanite, yea, for the time that there should be darkness for the space of three days over the face of the land.
- And there was a great and terrible destruction in the land southward.
- But behold, there was a more great and terrible destruction in the land northward; for behold, the whole face of the land was changed, because of the tempest and the whirlwinds, and the thunderings and the lightnings, and the exceedingly great quaking of the whole earth;
- And the highways were broken up, and the level roads were spoiled, and many smooth places became rough.
- And many great and notable cities were sunk, and many were burned, and many were shaken till the buildings thereof had fallen to the earth, and the inhabitants thereof were slain, and the places were left desolate.
- And thus the face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the quaking of the earth.
- And behold, the rocks were rent in twain; they were broken up upon the face of the whole earth, insomuch that they were found in broken fragments, and in seams and in cracks, upon all the face of the land.
- And it came to pass that when the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the storm, and the tempest, and the quakings of the earth did cease—for behold, they did last for about the space of three hours; and it was said by some that the time was greater; nevertheless, all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours—and then behold, there was darkness upon the face of the land.
- And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness (3 Nephi 8:1-3, 12-14, 17-20).
Increasing earthquakes are part of the "Signs of the Times"
- Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire (Isaiah 29:6).
- For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places (Matthew 24:7).
- And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven (Luke 21:11).
- And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood (Revelation 6:12).
- And they shall be visited with thunderings, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and all manner of destructions, for the fire of the anger of the Lord shall be kindled against them, and they shall be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall consume them, saith the Lord of Hosts (2 Nephi 26:6).
- And there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places (Mormon 8:30).
- And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations (Doctrine and Covenants 87:6).
Earthquakes have increased in frequency and severity in recent years, signifying this as the final dispensation before the Second Coming. An article in Science Daily, written in 2000, states the following:
- 1999 Quake-related casualties are double the annual average, according to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) data. Earthquakes have caused more than 22,000 deaths worldwide since Jan. 1, 1999. More than 17,000 people were killed as a result of the magnitude 7.4 Izmit, Turkey, earthquake on August 17. The deadliest year in this century was 1976 when at least 255,000 people, and perhaps more than 600,000, were killed after one quake rocked Tianjin (formerly Tangshan), China.
It was an earthquake, with epicenter in the sea near Indonesia, which caused the destructive tsunami that killed nearly 300,000 people at the beginning of this 21st century. An earthquake in south-central China killed tens of thousands in 2008.
Australian scientist, Tom Chalko, reported the following:
- The analysis of more than 386,000 earthquakes between 1973 and 2007 recorded on the US Geological Survey database proved that the global annual energy of earthquakes on Earth began increasing very fast since 1990.
- "The most serious environmental danger we face on Earth may not be climate change, but rapidly and systematically increasing seismic, tectonic and volcanic activity," said Dr. Chalko.