Apostasy and False Christs Will Precede the Second Coming
Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:21–26
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. 24 Behold, I have told you before; 25 Wherefore, if they shall say unto you: Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: Behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not; 26 For as the light of the morning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, and covereth the whole earth, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
“After the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews, and after the establishment of the primitive Church, an era of false religions is to commence, an era of division, disunity, discord and disagreement, an era of change and apostasy, so that among those who profess to follow Christ, some will advocate one doctrine of salvation and some another. Perfect Christianity will be lost; and Jesus’s warning is to beware of all false and conflicting claims made in His name. . . .
“. . . [F]alse Christs and false prophets shall arise. This time—perhaps with isolated exceptions when some deluded and demented person supposes himself to have divine powers—these false Christs will be the false religious systems of the world, and the false prophets will be the teachers and expounders of those systems. So profound and learned will be their doctrines, so great and marvelous their works—with in some instances false miracles being done by them through the power of the devil—that the very elect will almost be deceived.
“If these false religious systems with their false teachers invite you to the desert to find Christ in a life of asceticism, go not forth, He is not there; if they call you to the secret chambers of monastic seclusion to find Him, believe them not, He is not there.
“For when, in this age of apostasy and discord, the true religion of Christ comes again, it will be as the light of the morning, dawning gradually and increasing in brilliance until the millennial day when it shall cover the whole earth. Then shall the Son of Man come to reign personally upon the earth.”
(Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 647–48.)