39 And it shall come to pass that he that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.
40 And they shall see signs and wonders, for they shall be shown forth in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath.
41 And they shall behold blood, and fire, and vapors of smoke.
42 And before the day of the Lord shall come, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon be turned into blood, and the stars fall from heaven.
43 And the remnant shall be gathered unto this place; (D&C 45:39-43)
It impresses me that Jesus says those who fear Him (in the reverential awe sense) will be looking for the signs of His coming. We can also infer the opposite—that those who don’t, will pay no attention to signs, and probably won’t see them.
It’s neat to me that He promises that those who look shall see signs and wonders in heaven and in earth.
It struck me that maybe He didn’t just mean only those who were alive when He come, but also those who live in the intervening generations would see signs as well that show how close He’s getting, even if they don’t see the specific signs listed that indicate Christ is coming in their day.
In v36-38, Christ uses the parable of the fig tree and how tender leaves shooting forth indicate coming summer to communicate how members may know how close the great day is by looking at certain signs.
I have fond memories of seeing how trees bud. It doesn’t happen all in a day. Little green shoots sprout and unfurl, like a green mist on the trees. Likewise, there are little sprouting signs we can watch for as members, such as seeing how much of the world is open to missionary work and the gospel.
The specific signs and wonders listed in the above verses are of the violent and destructive variety, meant to wake up the world. But I believe the faithful who are already “awake” will also be able to see positive signs, wonders, and miracles—compensatory blessings that are meant to help confirm their faith in a darkening age. You can see this from Joel 2:28-32:
28 ¶And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.
32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.
The destructive signs are very similar to the quoted verses from D&C 45, but there is the additional promise of the Spirit poured out, and increased spiritual gifts of prophecy, dreams, and visions. I believe those gifts are designed to help us find peace and act in faith in the increasing uncertainties.
I don’t know that I can say much about prophecy or visions, but I have some experience with dreams, and I want to take a little time to talk about that particular gift.
There is a kind of dream that I call at “heads-up” dream. (I’m borrowing this term from someone else who wrote about dreams.)
Heads-up dreams can come in two forms—they can show us quite literally what will happen, or they can show us a symbolic situation and we decode the symbols to understand what will happen. When Heavenly Father talks to us in dreams, He will speak according to our ability to understand, so it doesn’t much matter what form the message takes, whether literal or symbolic. (My dreams tend to be symbolic, and I don’t know whether that means that I can’t handle a literal dream or whether the Lord wants me to do some work to understand what He is trying to tell me. Whatever the reason, He puts them in a form adapted for my weaknesses.)
Heads-up dreams can tell us something that will happen the next day, or they can show us what will happen over larger periods of time. They may suggest something we (as individuals) must do, or they may prepare us for an experience we must simply go through. I’ve had some that warned me of something I needed to do immediately, and others that warned me of difficult experiences I would have several years down the line. (Of course, I didn't know that until later.)
Usually I know a dream is important if it is particularly vivid and it stays with me once I’ve awakened. Sometimes I know what it means immediately, but other times I am puzzled and have to think about it. I have noticed that reading the scriptures brings the Spirit enough that afterward I realize a dream’s meaning. Or I might have to ponder it over a few days. A few have really weirded me out, but have turned out to be very helpful.
I believe it is important to write in our journals the dreams that Heavenly Father gives us. They are a form of revelation, and if not recorded, they are easy to forget. But if we record them, future readings of our journals will remind us and we will find them verified. Then we can record that the Lord knew what would happen and we can show how we were helped because He told us things ahead of time.
I believe that these dreams have a function of 1) preparing our minds for the future, 2) giving us clarity through synthetic experience, 3) giving us reassurance that Heavenly Father knows all things. They are not meant to make us feel superior to others.
These spiritual gifts--prophecy, dreams, visions-- don’t come at our will. Heavenly Father controls them and they are to fulfill His purposes, so they become very personalized signs to help us act and endure faithfully. They are meant to save us, and we need saving.