“And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them.”
After a quick perusal of social media this morning, two images came to mind—folks in the great and spacious building and Nephites in Amalickiah’s cross-hairs.
Mockers in the Great and Spacious Building
After reaching the Tree of Life and partaking of the fruit, Lehi looked around. That’s when he noticed a great and spacious building. The people in the building were “in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.”
Though, Lehi didn’t mention the building’s harassers en route to the tree, they were there the whole time.
I’ve always felt I lived during an easy time to be LDS. As a missionary, I expected opposition and wasn’t shocked by it. Kids in my Texas high school thought some of my habits were weird (Word of Wisdom, Seminary, not dating until 16), but I didn’t feel afflicted. During my professional life, a boss condescendingly told me he used the Book of Mormon I gave him as a door stop. I was glad it was still in his house.
Of course, there have been very hurtful people and moments. I did cry after contacting an adoption agency who gently tried to tell me that even though there were “surplus children,” they’d never give me a baby because I was a Mormon.
But, did I ever feel like I was fighting for life and liberty like ancestors in Kirtland, Missouri, or Nauvoo? No.
But we are fighting a war. And it feels like the opposition’s years of sophisticated preparation for modern battles are proving to be riveting and shocking.
Even if we’re focusing on the Tree, social media holds the great and spacious building’s mocking clamor in front of our faces. Like Lehi, we suddenly realize there is an opposition we might have been oblivious to. Also like Lehi, we may feel surprised and saddened to find friends and loved ones among the mockers.
Lehi doesn’t mention if people at the tree talked back to the mockers. Modern folks definitely react. Reaction to the assaults span the pendulum from fear, anger, defensiveness, judgment, trying to not be judgmental, testifying, to love, and everything else in between. And there’s also silence — an ignoring silence or an understanding silence or a fearful silence.
Based on our reactions, how are our hearts? Are they failing?
Persecution Has Two Effects on Faith in Jesus Christ
Persecution and judgment, even mocking, should do at least two things: awaken us to our faith and provide fodder for introspection.
The Lord often uses persecution to wake up His people. What do we believe? Why do we believe it? It’s a time for learning the doctrine more completely and understanding why it’s God’s will. What other questions do we have? Maybe it’s time to find those answers.
When clamoring voices say we’re judgmental and hypocritical, it’s a great time to really evaluate ourselves. Are we living what we believe? We may feel Christ-like, but are we really? Are we truly led by the Holy Ghost? Do we have carefully guarded resentments?
During Alma’s ministry, people in the Church became a stumbling block to people not in the Church. Are we a stumbling-block to those in or out of the Church?
What are we known for? Are we kind? Are we welcoming? Are we so wrapped up in ourselves that we really don’t see anyone else anyway?
People do and say dumb things to each other. Even on tongues of sweetest intentions, words wound hearts. I’ve said and done dumb things to others. People have said and done dumb things to me. I shook my head at dumb things and moved on.
One day, however, a very prominent leader said something to me and a friend in the temple that rocked me to my very core. He destroyed me in an instant. My heart failed. Admittedly, I ultimately chose to be destroyed by what he said. But, I left reeling. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I kept crying. People at work noticed.
My husband was furious. He took me out of town to get away from it. It was dark. I felt bleak.
During the journey, my phone rang. I recognized the temple’s phone number. I didn’t know who was calling, didn’t feel like talking to anyone, but felt compelled to answer.
I hope everyone has people in their lives who are living examples of the Savior. Hopefully, each of us, actually, is a living example of the Savior. This temple president epitomized that for me. He had never called me before, but he knew me. And he heard what happened. He called.
I cried and cried on the phone with him. I felt like I turned my soul inside out, and he carefully tucked it back in. He didn’t focus on what happened, or what should have happened. He spoke of the Savior, of light, of faith, of hope, of love. He told me I was valued and needed and loved.
He apologized for the man. The temple president said he would take responsibility for what happened and asked me to forgive him (the temple president). I had to choose. Of course I would forgive him. How could I not?
He changed my perspective. I realized that while the triumphs and challenges of individuals bring unity, beauty, and new viewpoints and growth to our lives, commenting solely from the context of my life to others struggling with things I don’t fully understand (aka everyone) will always be hurtful and dumb.
He didn’t try to console me from the context of his life. He offered me the Savior’s perspective, and I felt encircled in the arms of Jesus Christ who restored my heart.
“It’s during these trials of pain that the Lord extends His tender mercies. And, as our perception increases — our knowledge increases.”
Times to Choose Faith in Jesus Christ
Amalickiah belonged to the Church. His believing heart failed. I wish I knew why. We know he grew proud and restless.
He dreamed of being king and curtailing the Nephite’s freedoms. His flatteries and mockeries began influencing members of the Church. “There were many in the Church who believed…therefore they dissented.”
Captain Moroni mobilized. He created his Title of Liberty. “Surely God shall not suffer that we, who are despised because we take upon us the name of Christ, shall be trodden down and destroyed, until we bring it upon us by our own transgressions.” Those afraid to take Christ’s name upon them would be rent.
Amalickiah sought subjugation. Moroni sought preservation. People in the Church were divided and chose sides. Most people rallied to Moroni’s standard and reconfirmed their commitment to God and liberty.
While scanning old family letters, I ran across a letter to my great-grandfather Alonzo from a mission companion. The companion wrote about great times in the mission and how much he admired Alonzo’s faith in Jesus Christ and the Prophet Joseph Smith. He then proceeded to carefully describe an underground movement continuing “divinely mandated” polygamy, deriding current church leadership, and invited Alonzo to join and reclaim his privileges in following the true church.
I don’t have grandfather’s response to his mission companion. But, I do have a response from the President of the Church, to whom Alonzo forwarded the letter. He bore testimony that the Church was on track and had been led, and continued to be led, by Jesus Christ. He said they were aware of subversive movements and prayed for the faith of the Latter-day Saints to withstand the onslaught of their times.
What a potentially confusing time causing upheavals of faith. People in the Church were divided and chose sides. Most people rallied to follow a living prophet and confirmed their commitment to God and liberty.
Focus on the Fruit
Has there ever been a time without the great and spacious building, dissenters, and potentially failing hearts? Probably not. But regardless of the outcomes, true believers focus on the fruit of the Tree of Life.
People tossed Daniel in the lion’s den for praying. Soldiers threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego into a fiery furnace for not bowing down to an idol. Haman issued a decree to kill the Jews. Jews threatened Lehi’s life for telling them to repent. Amulon persecuted Alma because Alma believed Abinadi’s teachings. Nephites planned to kill believers awaiting the sign of Christ’s birth.
Defending their faith in Jesus Christ cost some their lives. Isaiah was sawn in two. Abinadi burned at the stake. Believers in Ammonihah burned in a pit. A mob shot Joseph and Hyrum at Carthage. Our crucified Savior died at Calvary.
We may not risk our lives to follow our faith in Jesus Christ, but we do risk our faith if we succumb to the great and spacious building’s mockers. Instead of feeling defensive and angry, we can use the opposition to evaluate the state of our conversion. Do we understand His doctrines? Is our faith in Jesus Christ cohesive? Are we more concerned about our standing before God rather than men? Are we true disciples? Honestly assessing ourselves enables the Holy Ghost to guide our repentance and improvements. We reach for the fruit.
As we grasp the fruit, we are guided by the Holy Ghost to truly live the doctrines of Christ. We find that “we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:14-15).
It’s time to choose. Do we crumble or stand? It’s our choice.