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Must Every Nation Hear the Gospel Before the Lord Comes?

Tim - September 13, 2006

We hear this being taught all the time. Before the Lord returns to the Earth, the Gospel must go out to all nations first.

I have heard this teaching being used to justify the war in Iraq. In Elder’s Quorum a few months back, the instructor said, “I know many of you disapprove of the war, but just remember, the Lord works in mysterious ways, and I believe this war will lead to the spreading of the Gospel to these nations in order to fulfill God’s prophecy.”

First of all, where does this prophecy exist? I remember looking into it a little in-depth on my mission when a member of the MTC presidency commented that, in order to reach all of the people in Brazil, they would need an additional 75 missions. They had 23 at the time. I thought, that’s going to take awhile. Anyway, I couldn’t find any references to this prophecy, in the scriptures, or otherwise.

Second, do we realize how many countries have not heard the Gospel yet? China, much of Africa, the Middle East, etc. That constitutes a large percentage of the Earth’s population. While I don’t think the Second Coming is going to happen any time soon, I don’t think it’s going to wait until everybosy on Earth has heard the Gospel.

Third, what does “hearing the Gospel” constitute? Is it sitting down with the Missionaries for a discussion? Talking with a member perhaps. How about hearing or seeing an LDS commercial (family, isn’t it about…time).

I never understood this thinking and am not sure where it came from, and if it is even realistic.


  1. By the way, this post stemmed from a discussion here, at the Blogger of Jared, which is becoming one my more frequent stops in the ‘nacle.

    Comment by Tim — September 13, 2006 @ 10:41 am

  2. I think the scriptures are pretty clear that all nations will hear the gospel. That doesn’t mean every person in every nation; I simply believe that the gospel will enter each nation and part of the world before the second coming.

    And now I say unto you that the time shall come that the salvation of the Lord shall be declared to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. (Mosiah 15:28)

    And moreover, I say unto you, that the time shall come when the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. (Mosiah 3:20)

    And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth. (2 Ne. 30:8)

    That these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed. (1 Ne. 5:18)

    And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every enation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, (Rev. 14:6)

    Q. What are we to understand by the four angels, spoken of in the 7th chapter and 1st verse of Revelation?
    A. We are to understand that they are four angels sent forth from God, to whom is given power over the four parts of the earth, to save life and to destroy; these are they who have the everlasting gospel to commit to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; having power to shut up the heavens, to seal up unto life, or to cast down to the regions of darkness. (D&C 77:8)

    Comment by Connor Boyack — September 13, 2006 @ 11:00 am

  3. No. Apocalyptic eschatological text portrays nations arrayed against the remnant of the tribe of Judah at Jerusalem. Its pretty plain those of Judah clearly havent heard/accepted the gospel from those accounts, and the hostile nations clearly havent heard/accepted the gospel. One might argue they “heard” it and rejected it, but there isnt anything from the context of apocalyptic literature even suggesting such a thing.

    One might assume the “prophecy” alluded to is the Standard of Truth from the Wentworth Letter, which statement appears immediately before the recitation of what is the 13 Articles of Faith.

    Comment by Kurt — September 13, 2006 @ 11:25 am

  4. “No unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing. Persecutions may rage; mobs may combine; armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country and sounded in every ear; till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the great Jehovah shall say, ‘The work is done’ . . .”

    As Kurt points out, this quote (the Standard of Truth) mentions such a notion, however when read literally it makes it sound like every single person alive (“sounded in every ear”) will hear the gospel before the second coming. Like a patriarchal blessing, I think these promises and prophecies can also be fulfilled after death.

    Comment by Connor Boyack — September 13, 2006 @ 11:33 am

  5. In regard to the Wentworth letter, it is critical to recognize that prophecy (the part about pronouncing the work done) will not be fulfilled until the Last Day, soon after the end of the Millennium.

    Now the only reason why the gospel must be preached prior to the Second Coming is to give all an adequate opportunity to repent and abide the day. That only requires compliance with a terrestrial law, not a celestial, therefore we may conclude that the fulness of the gospel need not reach every nation prior to that time, but that the basics of the gospel must and will, by one means or another.

    Lift up your voices and spare not. Call upon the nations to repent, both old and young, both bond and free, saying: Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord;

    For if I, who am a man, do lift up my voice and call upon you to repent, and ye hate me, what will ye say when the day cometh when the thunders shall utter their voices from the ends of the earth, speaking to the ears of all that live, saying—Repent, and prepare for the great day of the Lord?

    Yea, and again, when the lightnings shall streak forth from the east unto the west, and shall utter forth their voices unto all that live, and make the ears of all tingle that hear, saying these words—Repent ye, for the great day of the Lord is come?
    (D&C 43:21-22)

    Also, the Iraq thing could be a beneficial side effect, but as a justification it is perverse, to put it mildly. There is only one justification for war and that is an imminent threat of continued personal or bodily harm.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 13, 2006 @ 12:18 pm

  6. Okay. So what would constitute “hearing the Gospel.”

    “Now the only reason why the gospel must be preached prior to the Second Coming is to give all an adequate opportunity to repent and abide the day.”

    You imply that they must hear the Gospel in a manner that would give them the choice of accepting or rejecting it. That’s a lot of work, and would lead me to believe that Christ isn’t coming for quite a while.

    Comment by Tim — September 13, 2006 @ 1:43 pm

  7. Kimball, in his famous When the World Will Be Converted, delievered soon after his ascension to the presidency, indicates that it will likely be through technology (radio mostly, but he would have dug the internet) that the people of the world are reached, as well as through conventional missionary work.

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 13, 2006 @ 2:21 pm

  8. I would also add that people since JFS(II) have liked to forget about the preaching unto the Jew that is supposed to happen after preaching the gentiles, because it messes with their view of the current state of Isreal.

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 13, 2006 @ 2:23 pm

  9. Behold, the power of proof-texting.

    Comment by Kurt — September 13, 2006 @ 4:53 pm

  10. Tim, what I am saying is that no one even needs to know of the existence of the Church in order to be righteous enough to abide the day of His coming. They merely need to be honorable, upright, and all the other things we normally associate with a terrestrial law.

    The people that need to worry are fairly summarized as follows:

    And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.
    (Malachi 3:5)

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 13, 2006 @ 6:55 pm

  11. It could be that everyone really does need to hear the Gospel and the only thing holding things up is our laxness in spreading the word, as a people.

    Could be…

    Comment by Seth R. — September 13, 2006 @ 6:56 pm

  12. In my opinion, the Lord has the Second Coming scheduled down to the day, and his foreknowledge of our capacity is more than accurate enough to maintain that schedule.

    But first let my army become very great, and let it be sanctified before me, that it may become fair as the sun, and clear as the moon, and that her banners may be terrible unto all nations;
    That the kingdoms of this world may be constrained to acknowledge that the kingdom of Zion is in very deed the kingdom of our God and his Christ; therefore, let us become subject unto her laws.
    (D&C 105:31-32)

    However, as far as an explicit prophecy of preaching the gospel is concerned, I think the following is the most relevant:

    And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
    (Matt 24:14)

    I am just saying that in my opinion, a witness of the fulness of the gospel is not necessary prior to the Second Coming, but a witness of the fundamentals of the gospel is, fundamentals which may indeed be preached by members of other denominations, in some cases even other religions. The key word is repentance – any church which preaches repentance has the spirit of Christ to that degree. It is the eat, drink, and be merry folks that are (unwitting) representatives of the evil one.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 13, 2006 @ 8:17 pm

  13. I suppose I should say that it is not apparent to me that the D&C 105 prophecy will be fulfilled before the Second Coming – that is really a topic for the BCC Missouri thread.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 13, 2006 @ 8:23 pm

  14. So, is the preaching of the Gospel to the whole earth a prerequisite (for lack of a better word) for the Second Coming, or no? It is often believed to be in the Church.

    I just don’t see how it’s possible.

    Seth, I agree. I believe I heard of pilot programs in SLC where missionaries were pulled out of entire stakes and the members were trained to Proselyte. I may have my facts mixed up, but does anyone know anything about this?

    Comment by Tim — September 13, 2006 @ 8:50 pm

  15. I have basically used up my time slice here for the moment, but I should say the answer is yes, but that many have too expansive a definition of the Gospel for present purposes. The scripture says “Preach nothing but repentance unto this generation” – no one is going to be cut off because they haven’t been baptized yet, even though that is the next logical step after repentance.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 13, 2006 @ 9:05 pm

  16. Mark, don’t worry about over-commenting–never a problem, and I appreciate the discussion.

    The “Gospel” was the other part of my original question. What consitutes “hearing the Gospel?”

    Comment by Tim — September 13, 2006 @ 9:08 pm

  17. The Gospel includes a lot of things. I would say the more pertinent question is how much of the Gospel do people really need to appreciate, or have a fair opportunity to appreciate, in order to be prepared to live and thrive through the Lord’s strange act.

    I believe that includes:

    1. God lives and loves them
    2. God comes down in judgment upon the wicked for the benefit of the innocent
    3. Whether in life or in death, the great day of the Lord is at hand
    4. It is necessary to repent of our sins and prepare for that day.

    I think the vast majority of the population appreciates (1) and (2). (3) and (4), however, are not well appreciated, and need to be.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 13, 2006 @ 9:49 pm

  18. Mark,
    You make a fantastic argument here:) I hadn’t ever thought of it all in the terrestial abiding way before. I think you’re right on.

    I think you may want to find a definition for “the end,” as well. Does it mean end before Christ comes or end of the millenium or end of the final judgment? Having had to touch on this recently through teaching the Second Coming lessons in the Gospel Principles book, I’d say preaching to all before Christ comes again is in the sense that Mark speaks of and preaching as in conversion/baptism sense to be before the millenium ends. Missionary work is one of the two great works (the other being temple work, of course) of the Millenium. Everyone will have accepted Christ as their King and ruler of the earth, but not as their Savior. That’s our (members of the church) work.

    Comment by Bret — September 14, 2006 @ 1:25 am

  19. Thanks, Bret. In regard to “the end” or “end of the world” – I believe it is generally used in two different (relevant) ways in the scriptures, and that checking the context is necessary to know which one. The Matthew 24 scripture (q.v.) is in the context of the end of the world (as we know it) being coincident with the Second Coming.

    On the other hand, D&C 19:3 clearly uses it to refer to the final judgment, and the author of Hebrews used the term to refer to his own time.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 14, 2006 @ 4:33 am

  20. Interesting thoughts. I can now rest assured that the Lord isn’t coming anytime in the near future.

    Comment by Tim — September 14, 2006 @ 6:46 am

  21. I have a personal take on this doctrine of “every nation, kindred, tongue and people” We are in the final process of adopting a two and a half year old girl from The Peoples Republic of China this coming winter. Our new daughter is from a rural province with several Chinese minority groups living there. These minority groups have different language and beliefs as the predominate Han Chinese Majority. I have checked and Christianity was not well entrenched in her area before the Communists came to power; nor is Christianity in much of that area today.
    It came to me one day as I took my daily walk (this is when I do my best thinking) that my child is a modern-day pioneer. It is quite possible that my dear little girl will be the first or one of the first of her people to receive the Gospel of Christ. She is part of the every nation, kindred, tongue and people promise.

    Comment by JA Benson — September 14, 2006 @ 7:53 am

  22. Thank you, JA. Wonderful comment, and I agree with you.

    Here in Omaha we have seen a flood of Sudanese refugees fleeing the civil war. Many have been baptized, and at one time we actually had a Sudanese branch–in Omaha, Nebraska of all places.

    Comment by Tim — September 14, 2006 @ 8:09 am

  23. Well, I have heard some of my past stake leaders say that the General Authorities would like to visit the saints abroad in places like Brasil, the Philippines, France, and elsewhere.

    But they really can’t get out as much as they’d like because they’re too busy babysitting the American Mormons.

    Comment by Seth R. — September 14, 2006 @ 8:28 am

  24. Thanks Tim.
    I was impressed when we visited Toronto to see my brother come off his mission (this was about ten years ago); at the little world –wide communities in that city. In the section of town that we visited you would literally walk down the street and for a block or so would be in a Pakistani community, next an Italian community, then a Haitian community etc…. My brother and the other missionaries spent a lot of time teaching the individuals from these nations. There is a young guy in our ward who just accepted a mission call to Australia to teach Mandarin Chinese. Little by little the stone is rolling forth because the Lord will find a way to gather his own.

    Comment by JA Benson — September 14, 2006 @ 9:10 am

  25. The Dec. 2001 Ensign, in the Gospel Classic article by Pres. Benson, discusses how there will be 3 parts to the Second Coming. First part is His coming to the New Jerusalem in America, 2nd is His coming to Mt. of Olives to save the Jews in Armageddon, and His final coming is when the righteous meet Him in the air when He comes to the whole world. I imagine that by the last part all will have heard His voice and the gospel message.

    Comment by cadams — September 14, 2006 @ 9:54 am

  26. Well, I do not think we can expect his coming in glory any sooner than about thirty years from now, if that is what you have in mind, Tim.

    Now as far as an appearance of the Savior to the Saints prior to that time, the only evidence I know of is an interpretation of Daniel 7:13 and D&C 116:1 that interprets “one like unto the Son of Man” as Jesus Christ.

    Now I think it would be a little odd for Jesus Christ to come to Missouri to receive keys from Adam, so I would tend generally to conclude that the verse refers to another Latter-day figure comparable to Joseph Smith, “unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days” (D&C 113:6).

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 14, 2006 @ 12:39 pm

  27. Thirty years?! You’re giving me thirty years?! Crap, I’m screwed.

    Comment by Tim — September 14, 2006 @ 4:07 pm

  28. 30 years? I would have agreed with you a few years ago but with the way things change so quickly in this world (like that one thing with the planes in Mew York 5 years ago, I can’t remember exactly what day) that I say WHO KNOWS. Maybe Christ has ALREADY met with the Ancient of Days and others in Adam-ondi-Ahmen>:)


    I agree with citations. Just another example of why we need to read the scriptures so carefully:) Regarding the Adam-ondi-Ahmen meeting, it was my understanding that part of the purpose of that was to have all the dispensation leaders return their keys/authority (or whatever it’s called) back to Adam, who in turn, as the Father of our race returns them to Christ as part of HIs receiving all things in preparation for His ruling the World as King of Kings. That doesn’t sound so crazy to me.

    Comment by Bret — September 15, 2006 @ 12:41 am

  29. Bret,

    As I mentioned before, though I imagine Jesus Christ was present, I do not believe that he was the one “like unto the Son of Man” who need(ed) to receive keys from Adam, or the Ancient of Days, as described in Daniel chapter 7.

    It is worth noting that these particular keys are the keys of governance, not only in spiritual, but also in temporal things. They are the only keys whereby the kingdoms of this world are going to become part of the Kingdom of our God, and his Christ.

    The fact that the law of Zion had to yield to the federal government in the 1880s is more than adequate evidence that these keys have not yet been granted, or the right to use them been granted (which is pretty much the same thing), at least not in visible form.

    But they will be, as part of the completion of the restoration of all things since the world began, a restoration of keys that will be complete prior to the coming of the Lord in glory. There are a very large number of scriptures about this topic, some of which are hard to place in temporal order (i.e. before His coming in glory or after).

    But I can agree with you that the event described in Daniel 7 may already have occured, and (oddly enough) indeed may have occured in the recipient’s infancy, the way that John the Baptist was ordained by an angel at the age of eight days, “to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power”.

    In other words, John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elias, which was fore to come, which Elias is the last great prophet before the coming of the Lord in glory, “unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days”.

    So take your pick, Joseph Smith or some other guy. Parley Pratt actually prophesied once that Joseph Smith would be again upon the earth to fulfil this mission. I tend to think it is probably somebody else. Now of course messianic prophecies are the favored jumping off point for apostates of all sorts, and one of the most controversy inducing topics in the Church (cf. Avraham Gileadi vs. the legacy of BRM), so we have to be careful.

    It is clear that Elder McConkie did not believe that there would be such a prophet as I am speaking of (other than Jesus Christ himself), and given some of the pertinent scriptures, I think he had some pretty decent reasons to come to that conclusion.

    Comment by Mark Butler — September 15, 2006 @ 12:45 pm

  30. Mark,

    Hmmm. You leave me much to ponder and study over. Thank you for that:)

    Comment by Bret — September 15, 2006 @ 9:59 pm

  31. Tim,

    I have always considered the source of this doctrine to be Matt 24:14 which Mark quoted in #12. As Jesus goes through the signs of the times, he says talks about how there will be wars and rumors of wars twice (JS-M 1:23,28). People are always confusing “wars and rumors of wars” as the sign of the times. As I read it, the wars and rumors of wars are meant to represent “business as usual.” There are always wars and rumors of wars. So, when he says there will be wars, he is saying “things will be going on as always” and the end is not yet. (By the way, I have seen this same argument advanced by C.S. Lewis and by Nibley.) But, when he gets to the preaching of the gospel in all nations he says, “and then the end shall come, or the destruction of the wicked.” Note that the verse is explicit about what it means by the “end of the world.”

    Like you, I have wondered how this will be fulfilled.

    Comment by Jacob — September 16, 2006 @ 1:04 pm

  32. I like Mark’s thoughts on this subject. I think if we apply 3rd Nephi chapters 9&10 as analogue to the second coming, then what we get is a softer sifting process than we usually imagine. It’s only the worst types that are destroyed among the Nephites prior to the Savior’s visit. Indeed, after the destruction of the wicked the Lord says to those who were spared because they were “more righteous” than they others: “will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?”

    This clearly implies that *complete* conversion is not requisit to “abiding the day”–that is, if the analogue holds true.

    Comment by Jack — September 16, 2006 @ 3:21 pm

  33. I can’t help but wonder if we might be expecting physical deliverance of the gospel (by missionaries) when the Internet makes it possible for the Church’s teachings to be in every nation that has Internet capabilities.

    As a general comment, if the Lord is going to come as a thief in the night, I would suppose that some of what will happen prior to His coming will surprise us, perhaps in ways that don’t fit with our conception of the “checklist” of things that need to happen first. Which says to me thinking I have at least x number of years because I think I might have the signs figured out could be dangerous. Thus, I think we should live as if He could come today.

    My $0.02.

    Comment by mullingandmusing (m&m) — September 16, 2006 @ 10:44 pm

  34. “Before the Lord returns to the Earth, the Gospel must go out to all nations first…. While I don’t think the Second Coming is going to happen any time soon…”

    Are you implying that the next time the Lord comes to the earth will be the “Second Coming”?

    I think that one of the problems with the question originally posed is the term “Second Coming”.

    The inspired versions of of Matthew 21 and Luke 12 inform us that Christ comes to the earth in secret “as a thief in the night” three different times during three different “watches” or dispensations BEFORE he comes in his glory.

    It informs us that his earthly ministry to the Jews in the meridian of time was the first watch. The interpretation of what the second two watches are, are not explained.

    I would suggest the possibility that the foundation movement when the church was restored to the earth in the 1800′s was the second watch. He repeatedly told the Saints he was in their midst working through his servant even though they could not see him. (A select few did see him walk through the room during the school of the prophets, etc)

    The third watch would appear to be the marvelous work or strange act that is yet to take place BEFORE his coming in glory.

    Comment by CRC — September 18, 2006 @ 9:27 am

  35. Interesting thoughts, CRC. Thank you.

    Comment by Tim — September 18, 2006 @ 9:42 am

  36. m&m,

    I had the same thought. Unfortunately, our Church tends to be consumately traditionalist and it’s hard to see them truly exploiting the possibilities of online communication and community to its fullest.

    Comment by Seth R. — September 18, 2006 @ 10:28 am

  37. I wonder if our reading of the scriptures about “all nations” might be in any way affected by an historical contextualization of the word/concept nation.

    Comment by Justin H — September 19, 2006 @ 9:35 pm

  38. When we look at Acts, the bible (which we view as complete God-inspired truth) states that men, from “every nation under heaven” heard the gospel in their own tongue.

    Act 2:5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, FROM EVERY NATION of those under heaven.
    Act 2:6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because they were hearing each one speaking in his own language.

    Therefore, scripturally, the prerequisite is fulfilled. All nations under heaven heard the gospel as per scripture, shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

    This should adjust some views on time-frames and where we are at amongst some, as they would be waiting for what has already come to pass

    Comment by Cyrus — April 19, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

  39. Cyrus, if you think that one instance fulfills the prophecies that the gospel shall be preched to all the world, you better think again.

    Comment by MCQ — April 22, 2013 @ 9:57 pm

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