Dear 100 Hour Board:
A person in my ward is adamant that the prophecy of the moon turning to blood has been fulfilled, based on the following quote (but if you read it carefully, it says "shall be", which means that part of the entire quote may still be in the future). Here's the quote:
"The era in which we live is the fulness of times spoken of in the scriptures, when God has brought together all of the elements of previous dispensations. From the day that He and His Beloved Son manifested themselves to the boy Joseph, there has been a tremendous cascade of enlightenment poured out upon the world. The hearts of men have turned to their fathers in fulfillment of the words of Malachi. The vision of Joel has been fulfilled wherein he declared:
“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:
“And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
“And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.
“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” (Joel 2:28–32).
Personally, I think she has read too much into it, it seems that the quote contains more than one event, and Pres. Hinckley did not specify that each and every thing it the list ALREADY has been fulfilled....I would agree that the first two paragraphs of the scripture have been, but it seems the last paragraph is still unfolding. I would like to know what you guys have heard about this. She brings it up in many classes (over the past many months) stating that Pres. Hinckley said it was fulfilled. I would like to know if this is fact, as quite a few members here are wondering. If it has been fulfilled, was it when the oil wells blew in the Middle East? Was the scripture then symbolic not literal? Joseph Smith said the moon would be "bathed" in blood.
I can see where your ward-mate is getting her interpretation from. President Hinckley said that "the vision of Joel has been fulfilled where he said . . ." and he mentions later on the sun turning into darkness and the moon to blood.
I think that President Hinckley's purpose in mentioning Joel 2:28-32 (which are Sister Pat Holland's favorite scriptures by the way), was to mention the "pour[ing] out [His] spirit upon all flesh" (although it is hardly my place to presume to understand the prophet's purpose in anything). I believe that reading this scripture as evidence that in the last days there will be a spiritual outpouring on the earth ties in well to his mentioning the First Vision, a dramatic fulfillment of "young men [seeing] visions."
But I think that focusing on the sun being darkened and the moon turning to blood ignores the fact that prophetic visions (and particularly this prophetic vision) are not necessarily to be understood or fulfilled all at once, or with only one event. Clearly, the boy Joseph Smith seeing a vision in the Sacred Grove would fulfill the "young men shall see visions" part of that prophecy. So as of 1820, do we go to our big "list of signs to be completed before the Second Coming" and check off Joel's vision as being complete? Of course not. Especially considering that long before the Restoration of the Gospel, in his sermon to the Jews in Jerusalem at the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21), Peter also cites the vision of Joel and indicates that this vision has been fulfilled on that particular occasion. Peter quotes the entire prophecy of Joel exactly word for word like President Hinckley. If we are to believe the supposed reasoning of your ward friend, then not only did President Hinckley say that his prophecy was fulfilled, but Peter did too and a really long time ago at that. Surely, President Hinckley was aware of this very prominent citation of Joel's prophecy in the scriptures, but still used it to describe our day. Apparently, prophetic vision (particularly of the Old Testament style) is not a one-trick pony.
And about the moon turning to blood and the sun being darkened. There have been a lot of events that have resulted in a great deal of smoke, ash or other debris being let into the sky that has resulted in a dark sun and a blood-colored moon. You mentioned oil fires in the middle east. The eruptions of Mount St. Helens and other volcanoes have had similar effects in surrounding areas. And in my own personal experience, when I was in second grade there was an explosion at Kennecott copper mine (in west Salt Lake County). When walking to school for the next few days, the plume of smoke made (gasp!) the sun dark and the moon and sunsets for the next week or so were a deep, bloody red.
My point here? If multiple prophets from almost two thousand years apart can cite the same vision as evidence of spiritual events happening in the world around us, it would be silly to imagine that the vision has been fulfilled in its entirety.
- Rating Pending (who thinks way too much energy goes into looking for signs of the times and not nearly enough into the actual, oh, you know, personal preparation we should be doing. The moon isn't going to turn to blood to show you that you're going to get hit by a bus tomorrow people. Let's all be ready, ok?)
I usually am of the opinion that when someone is "adamant" about anything that isn't a very fundamental doctrine, they are likely wrong. When it comes to the blood red moon; sure it has happened. As Rating Pending has mentioned, there have been numerous events in history that have darkened the sun and turned the moon's light blood red. Solar and lunar eclipses could scientifically explain it as well (though they'd have to be at least 14 days apart...). Also consider the similar prophecy as recorded in Revelation: "And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;" (6:12)If we take each seal to be 1000 years, this would have had to occur in the sixth thousand years, and many would claim that most, if not all, of that time has now passed us by.
As to whether or not we should be looking for a literal or figurative happening for these prophecies, I think that either or both could well be applied. (Other than looking for blood to be spilt upon the surface of the moon... that might be a little too far fetched. Then again there are those ten tribes still...) Figurative applications include major wars, altercations can and have been so bloody that the land and water become painted red, it doesn't take too much license to say that the heavens were also bathed in blood. I personally wonder if it doesn't have a much more subtle application. Light being shed on the earth has always been a common analogy for Heaven's revelations to man, a time when the sun is blotted out and the moon turns to blood could perhaps describe a time when major revelation is no longer occurring and minor revelation is being tainted or received with violence.
I also agree with Rating Pending that perhaps a study of the signs of the times should not turn one's mind to history, sociology, politics, or astronomy; but inward to one's own life and relationship with deity. I think those most versed in all the "events that must occur" before Christ's second advent will be among those most surprised at His arrival.
The rites are the wearing thin of loyalty and good faith
And the beginning of disorder;
Foreknowledge is the flowery embellishment of the way
And the beginning of folly.(XXXVIII,12-15)