I feel like I’m starting to sound like a broken record on these, and for that, I apologize. Many of these hymns written early in the LDS church’s history tend to share some excitement. “Look what’s back! Isn’t it great? Aren’t you excited about what comes next?”
Well, yes. Kind of. Sometimes.
When people talk about the Second Coming, there are two sides. There’s the Christ comes in glory and rules the world in wisdom and love and everything is sunshine and rainbows side. And then there’s the wars and fire and famine and basketball-sized hail and utter destruction of many of the wicked but also many of the righteous side, too.
Honestly, that second side doesn’t sound like good times to me. And while other people waxed rhapsodic about how wonderful the Second Coming will be, teenage me was panicky. “I’m so jealous of your generation!” my leaders often said. “I probably won’t be around for the Second Coming, but you probably will be!” Statements like that made me actually wish that they were completely wrong, and the Second Coming would happen long after my death. If, no matter how good I was, I could still be maimed or suffer other horrible fates, and the righteous are resurrected and live with God any, then I could happily miss the Second Coming.
But then I went to a class about it, and the teacher suggested that a person’s anxiousness for the Second Coming was a marker of how righteous they really are. I’m still not sure how true that is, but it’s an interesting concept, and I started to doubt how unshakeable my goodness really was.
And then a decade or so passed, and I found out through hard and disappointing experience that my goodness really WASN’T unshakeable. I tried to do everything right, and failed, and tried again, and failed again, and continued on and on until I realized I couldn’t do it alone. And I asked God for help and made a little progress and then still failed, and tried and failed and tried and failed and asked for help and tried and failed. And somewhere along the way I started to lose hope.
They say faith and hope are linked, and I’m not saying they aren’t, but faith was easier for me. I could believe in a loving, merciful, just God, I could have faith that he would make every effort for me, no problem. But I didn’t know how to hope, any more, that even with all that help, I could make it back. I didn’t believe heaven was for me.
I finally recognized what was going on, and I asked for help again, this time to have hope, and I took some of the help I was most reluctant to take, and I found a tiny flicker of hope in my soul and fed it and fed it and fed it. I have hope again. And faith. And while I am still not anxious to experience the terrifying pre-Second Coming events, I expect the rest will be nice. I don’t think I’m ready for it to be now, but then again, I assume that as long as I’m trying to be a good person and move forward in my life, one time is as good as another. I’m doing pretty well.
But I don’t yet have the confident hope of Joseph Townsend.
Then pure and supernal, our friendship eternal,
With Jesus we’ll live, and his counsels obey
Until ev’ry nation will join in salvation
And worship the Lord of the beautiful day.
He’s not couching his view of the future in “if we’re good enough” or “so long as we don’t get crushed by a falling building.” He would pass my teacher’s test. There’s nothing holding back his hope–it’s magnificent! No second guessing! No regrets! The future’s going to be great!
And you know what? It probably will be. But I’ll need to level up my hope a few times before I can sing this hymn with all the feeling it’s meant to have. I’m just glad, though, to see his view as a real possibility for my life, now. I hope you can, too. And if you can’t, you may need to cut yourself a little slack. In between all your failures, you’re becoming a better person.