There are two levels of wrath. One is temporal — here and now. The wicked are often punished here by letting them pursue their own evil course until it destroys them. Repentance, in that sense, relieves them of the physical, emotional, social, military, economic, and interpersonal disasters they bring upon themselves by their ruinous pursuit of destructive behavior. The other is eternal — meaning coming after this life. That second wrath is a result of leaving this life with accountability for what happened here and the lack of preparation for the moment when “judgment” is rendered. That “judgment” consists of the unrepentant finally facing reality. “When you are in His presence you can accurately measure the difference between what you are and what He wanted you to become — i.e., like Him. The gulf is so great that you would rather be in hell than in the presence of a just and holy being when you are stained with the blood and sins of your generation (Mormon 4:6).”1 God withdrawing is how His wrath manifests itself. “If He withdraws from you, that should be felt keenly as an absence and rejection.”2
God’s wrath is “poured out” and takes a specific form: wars and rumors of wars among all the nations and kindreds (1 Nephi 3:29). People go to war. The wicked shall slay the wicked (T&C 50:8; Proverbs 2:37; Mormon 2:1). The wicked get to destroy one another, but they do not get to destroy the righteous (see 1 Nephi 7:4). The angel makes a point of stating what Nephi is beholding in 1 Nephi 3:29: Behold, the wrath of God is upon the mother of harlots. How is this God’s wrath? The answer is that when God is angry, He withdraws His spirit (see Helaman 2:34; 5:3). And when He withdraws His spirit from one, He generally pours it out on another (see Helaman 2:34). When His spirit withdraws, men are left to their natural, carnal state, filled with envy, jealousy, covetousness, ambition, and greed. When the Heavens become silent, the judgments of God follow (see Revelation 2:17; T&C 86:20).3
1 “Alma 13:30,” June 21, 2010, blog post.
2 40 Years in Mormonism Lecture 8, “A Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit,” 2.
3 “1 Nephi 14:15–16,” July 12, 2010, blog post; Preserving the Restoration, 350.