There is a curious passage in Joseph Smith Matthew:
Joseph Smith Matthew 1:21 Behold, these things I have spoken unto you concerning the Jews; and again, after the tribulation of those days which shall come upon Jerusalem, if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe him not;
22 For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.
23 Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect’s sake; and you also shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled, for all I have told you must come to pass; but the end is not yet.
What is intriguing about this passage is that during his ministry, Christ said that the Jews should have recognized him as the Messiah for the miracles he did, if for nothing else. He said that ancient cities that were destroyed would have remained if the miracles he did had been done in those cities.
There is also the testimony of the blind man Christ healed that stated that God would not hear a man that was not righteous. He said he knew Christ came from God because of the miracle that he did, and his testimony was correct. His testimony of Christ is beautiful, and is based on the miracle that was done.
Also in 3rd Nephi, which Ezra Taft Benson explained gives us a notion of the second coming, we don’t see adversaries of the truth offering competing miracles. Instead the people become hardened so they are no longer as surprised by a sign or a wonder. In general, there are remarkably few stories in the scriptures of any sort of false miracle. Even Pharaohs magicians, who initially replicate some of Moses’ miracles, eventually say that what he is doing is the hand of God. Note that in calling it the hand of God, they are tacitly confessing that what they did was likely no more than magician’s trickery. They didn’t say Moses’ God was more powerful than their God. They said that Moses’s miracles were the hand of God.
After all Bruce R McConkie wrote: “I do not believe the devil has had a new idea for a hundred years”, and there is a distinct lack of signs and wonders performed by the adversary in the past. There are a few that Joseph Smith spoke of in his day, but they are not much to look at.
So what are these great signs and wonders that allow the adversary to fool, if it were possible, even the very elect?
I make no claim to be giving a definitive answer to this. I am just musing it out. But I do see both signs and wonders around me that are leading even those among the very elect to be deceived.
I don’t know whether there will be more to this scripture, but for a prolonged time in these days science has been dishing up signs and wonders for people, many of which we very much enjoy and appreciate. Science has also had more and more to say about moral issues and matters of right and wrong.
Let’s take an example. Say 180 years ago the following had happened:
Brigham Young had said: “Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and the unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, He is our Father. “ (Taught by Elder Packer not long ago)
But your neighbor and the local paper both said: There is a recent study that says people are born predetermined to be homosexual.
What would members have done in those days? Why they would laughed at the ridiculous claim and believed the prophet.
But what about now? Science provides our microwaves, our computers, our cars, our air conditioning, our mp3 players, our large screen televisions. We are constantly eating signs and wonders out of their hands. And because of that, we have changed how we react to their claims about things that have nothing to do with cell phones and microwave ovens. Now the brethren can teach doctrine about morality or homosexuality and a study can state the opposite and many will believe the study without pause. We quote their studies when speaking in church and teaching classes. It has become popular, even in many gospel articles, not to consider an article well written and convincing if it doesn’t cite a number of scientific studies. We have, effectively, turned to them for revelation.
Science gives us many nice things. It gives us signs, miracles and wonders that convince us of trustworthiness. Then when someone says there was a study that contradicts the gospel, it seems that in these days such studies deceive, if possible, the very elect.
But doesn’t the scripture say there will be many false Christ’s in these days? Indeed it does. And indeed there are. We like to say we believe in the same Christ as everybody else, but from Christ’s perspective, that doesn’t seem to be true. He calls the other renditions of himself false Christs. The most notable of these today is the general notion of being “christlike” which is often no more than the word “inclusive” with a religious connotation thrown in. People are increasingly placing these false Christ’s in direct opposition to the real one, claiming that one thing or another done by the brethren wasn’t “christlike”. If a notion of Christ that is being used to oppose his church is not a false Christ, I don’t know what is.
Now the many false Christ’s being offered to us these days aren’t tied to the “signs and wonders” being offered to us. Most are clearly heading that way though so we will have to see what the future brings. Even now many won’t come out and say that a study or science is wrong and the bible is right when the two are at odds with each other.
After all each church really offers a different Christ. And not one of them offers the true Christ who will provide you with actual redemption except the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint.s Thus we read in D&C 76 of those who were of Paul and of Cephos,.. as each of these different churches puts forth another false Christ for people to follow and turn to instead of being converted to the real one.
Now there is clearly more to all of this. But I was pondering the passage in Matthew 24, and wanted to put out some tentative thoughts about it.