This is the last week of seminary. We've been studying the book of Revelation, which Joseph Smith called "one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written." I'm glad he felt that way because we normal folks call it "scary stuff that freaks kids out".
A few things stood out to me. First of all, an increased appreciation for John, the one commissioned of the Savior to receive and record the revelations. What a life he had, from witnessing countless miracles such as the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:35-42); being on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9); and being witness our Lord's crucifixion and resurrection (Matthew 26); to continuing the work after Jesus' mortal ministry where he was eventually exiled to the island of Patmos and received this vision. That's not to mention the super-amazing request he made to "tarry" until Jesus came again to the earth (John 21:21-23), to minister here and not die until Christ comes in his glory. I can't even fathom that, nor understand the daily doings of one who does not taste death; that is a mystery to me. But the fact that he would choose to stay, knowing the destruction and wickedness that comes with the end of the world, is a testament to his devotion to the work and the cause.
Another thing that touched me is the REASON this revelation was given. I used to think it was to scare us to "straighten up and fly right" because we'd now been warned. But I came to understand that it is also given to comfort us--that God knows the end from the beginning. Yes, calamities, disease, and wars will rage and wickedness will abound. But how does it all end? With good triumphing over evil. With peace and joy. Taking that into my own life, if He knows that--the outcome of the entire earth's history and eventual glory--does He not know ME and the plans for MY life? I find that to be a great strength.
The last thing has come to me more strongly since hearing about the devastating tornado in Oklahoma this week. The book of Revelation talks about many horrible disasters in the last days and it seems like we are hearing of more and more of this come to pass every year. So very sad. Something I read in my study was this, from Joseph Smith:
"It is a false idea that the Saints will escape all the judgements, whilst the wicked suffer; for all flesh is subject to suffer, and 'the righteous shall hardly escape;' still many of the Saints will escape, for the just shall live by faith; yet many of the righteous shall fall a prey to disease, to pestilence, etc., by reasons of the weakness of the flesh, and yet be saved in the Kingdom of God."
Hardships and trials, even destruction and death--these affect both the righteous and wicked. Matthew 5:45 says "he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Those people who lost loved ones this week are in my prayers because no matter how firmly you believe that there is a plan, their poor hearts are broken. That's the real difficulty in all of this and I wish I could see with heavenly eyes and feel with a heavenly heart to make sense of it all. It's no wonder that John used such frightening-sounding imagery in describing the calamities and devastation that will befall many of us in the last days. I have no doubt that many wonderful, innocent people lost their lives that day--that the rain fell on the just--and to us, it just doesn't seem fair. However, if God knows the end from the beginning, who are we to say that this exit from mortality (which we will all have to face) was not exactly what He had planned and that those souls are now progressing more quickly than they could have had they stayed here? Not easy to accept, not easy to let go, but perhaps a comfort nonetheless.
I am grateful for the book of Revelation--the last book placed in the Bible but written before John wrote his first epistle (1 John).
(Did you know that? That when scholars were grouping the different letters, epistles, and accounts they started with the four Gospels because those were about Christ's mortal ministry; then moved to Acts because that was an overview of the activities and doings of the Apostles; then came all the letters. At first the book of Revelation was not included in the Bible. However, when scholars agreed that it was important they put it at the end.)
I cannot yet say as Brother Joseph that the book is "plain" to me but I do have a greater understanding and appreciation for the mighty prophesies revealed.