I apologize in advance for being repetitive, as I have touched on this topic twice before:
On second thought, I cannot really apologize at all, especially not for:
- Repeating myself, because I feel strongly compelled to share this message, even for the third time. I feel impressed to say it 3 times, kind of like the Wo, Wo, Wo to those who will hear. Perhaps you will need to get a third witness somewhere other than the pages of this blog. If that’s the case, then I plead with you to do so. The best third witness would, of course, be the Lord Himself.
- Waxing rhetorical. This, I believe, is an extremely important message. It is so important, in fact, that those who do not receive it may find themselves regretting this for eternity. If rhetoric is required, then I will use it.
- Becoming emotional. I don’t get emotional about a lot of things. In this case, I feel emotional and passionate because I have been commanded to share the message. It is very rare that I get even an inkling of how Nephi’s tears watered his pillow every night, but this is one time when I may understand just a little.
In discussing recent dramatic developments in our lives and in our relationship with our God with a dear and concerned friend, this friend pleaded with us again to “stay with the safety” of both the church and the economic system. This friend’s concerns are sincere, and were expressed with love. The plea, however, neither has had nor will have any impact on these decisions that will forever change our eternity. (If any of you want to know specifics, we will be glad to share one-on-one.)
A couple of hours later, after we had returned home, and just as I was going to bed, I was flooded with the sadness of a realization that this concept of “safety” as we pursue our return to His presence is completely contrary to the scriptures. Contrary to popular conception, the strait and narrow way is not safe. Thus, it is very concerning to me that it seems to be an acceptable mantra that we seek safety in our lives. On the one hand, many offer the counsel to stay safe, suggesting that such is the path to exaltation. The scriptures, on the other hand, seem to say, “If you want to be exalted, you must throw all considerations of safety out the window!”
The Rhetorical Part
In the interest of testing this for yourself, I issue a challenge. I challenge you to search the scriptures for any example of a prophet, of a faithful people, or of heroes who “stayed safe”. Were those whose Calling and Election were made sure examples of living a safe life? What about those who met the Savior? Were they seeking safety at the time? These are blessings and experiences reserved only for special people, right? So, then perhaps God really is a respecter of persons.
Anyway, let’s examine some examples here, and let’s start from the beginning:
- Adam and Eve – nope, not safe. Eve knew what she was doing, but she took the leap anyway.
- Enoch – could have “stayed safe” in his shell of being “slow of speech” but chose not to. He ended up walking and talking with God and establishing a Zion city.
- Noah – ultimately saved from the floods, but not by conforming to tradition and social norms. Instead, he built giant ship in the face of historic derision from his contemporaries that he and his family might re-establish mankind after the great destruction. Considering the upcoming destruction that has been prophesied throughout the scriptures, one might consider the possibility that being just a little crazy – crazy like Noah – might not be such a bad idea.
- Abraham – perhaps the ultimate example of not staying safe. He submitted to the sacrificial altar in Ur; left with His family for the journey to the promised land; then, in a repeat of the experience of his own youth, laid his only son on the sacrificial altar in obedience to the commandment of God. Yep, a safety-oriented life, indeed.
- Old Testament Prophets – Name them: Melchizedek, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, Malachi…they were all ostracized to the extreme in myriad ways. David risked everything multiple times, but then he got comfortable and…well, you know where that led.
- Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) – No safety here. They rejected the decrees of the Persian king Nebuchadnezzar and had to be miraculously saved from certain death by the hand of the Lord.
- Ruth – a Moabitess who married a Jew – faced ostracism from both her people and her husband’s people for the choices she made, but she made them anyway.
- John the Baptist, The Apostles, Stephen, Paul – the list of New Testament martyrs could go on and on. No safety to be found here.
Just so as to not bore you to death, let’s simply mention a few of the Book or Mormon examples that only further illustrate the point. You know their stories well enough, I’m sure:
And then, of course, martyrs and reformers throughout the history of apostate Christianity, including Wycliffe, Martin Luther, Huss, and many, many others.
In our own history as Mormons, can we not readily admit that the doctrine of the reformation would never have been revealed if those who brought it forward, especially Joseph Smith, had played it safe?
So, why are we suddenly supposed to play it safe? Why were we given all these examples in the scriptures of those who risked everything for their God, if we, in turn, are supposed to stay in the safety of the church? That is completely incomprehensible to me.
Another question: How in the world can we expect to receive exaltation as a reward for being safe? We consider many in the above pantheon to be exalted beings. If they are, how can we possibly hope to be exalted equally with them if we are not willing to make the same sacrifices they made…if we choose instead to “be safe”?
In a previous post “The Gift of Sacrifice”, I quoted from the Lectures on Faith 6:7 –
Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation…
According to the Lectures on Faith, which was the text for the School of the Prophets, salvation is clearly contingent upon the requirement that we sacrifice all things! That is NOT being safe.
This sacrifice is not simply a sacrifice of “stuff”. It will entail the sacrifice of pride, of false beliefs, traditions, even of our own will. Zion will most certainly require the sacrifice of all things except our desire to serve Him by obeying the two great commandments – to love God and to love our neighbor. I guarantee that it will even require us to sacrifice our fear of death, for if we fear death, we will not be able to serve Him to the extent He requires.
The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.
This scripture describes the Hebrews’ spiritual response to being rescued from the Assyrian siege in 701 BC. Having been saved by the Lord when His angel destroyed Sennacherib’s army in one night, they nevertheless looked to their own strength to prevent future occurrences rather than expressing gratitude for and reliance on the Lord’s hand. In this book, Cahn likens this response to the American response to 9/11 and foretells that the Lord’s patience will soon run out – as it did with the Hebrews who, a little over 100 years later, were carried off from a destroyed Jerusalem for a 70 year captivity in Babylon.
To me, this illustrates that the Lord wants us to turn to Him, not to ourselves, for our salvation. Our continued reliance on the fruits of our own labor, upon our own strength, is anathema to Him. Our sacrifice of all things, including the social, political, and economic structures within which we hope to find safety, is necessary if we are to receive exaltation. Risk all to gain all. It is a very simple formula in my mind.
I have been told more than once that I am deceived, or that I am listening to a lying spirit. My friends cannot comprehend that the Lord would be telling me (and Diana, by the way – she is soooo courageous!) to do what He is telling us to do. By worldly standards, they are crazy. But I ask you – when did obeying the word of the Lord ever adhere to social norms or conventional wisdom? Is our God a changeable God? No? Do we really believe that? (re: the rhetoric above).
I don’t know – I really don’t know – exactly when we started to hear, believe, and understand. It was very gradual. The Lord has been gentle, but persistent. It began for me with what I now call “sound bites” – small 5 to 10 word phrases that seemed to be “inserted” into my prayers. Needless to say, it has evolved far beyond that, and we fully expect it to evolve even further, because miracles on the order of those experienced by Lehi, Nephi, and Joseph will be necessary if we are to build Zion.
Lately, however, a sense of urgency has arisen. Deadlines have been provided. Messages like, “Don’t worry about what’s beyond, just do what I’ve told you – then more will be revealed”. We didn’t start receiving these, though, until we were prepared. He knew! He has been totally in charge. Things are different. There’s a different feeling in my mind, in my heart, and in my body. The level of understanding and clarity has elevated. The level of passion has increased dramatically. Most of all, our attachment to the things that we were so attached to in the past has been eased. He has prepared us to carry out His marvelous work. He has given us courage – courage beyond anything I ever thought either of us was capable of…courage to depend upon Him to sustain our lives while we are in His service.
My response to those who think we are deceived? First – you simply cannot say. You are not in our hearts; our minds; our bodies. You have not received the things we have received, in the way we have received them. You cannot judge. Furthermore, I simply quote the following very familiar scripture:
If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? (Luke 11:11)
I trust my Lord. He will not allow me to be deceived as long as I continue to look to Him with humility and charity in my heart.
The Emotional, Passionate Part
I crave Zion. I don’t crave it because I look around me and see all the evil in the world and I want a way out. I crave it because I see that the Lord desires it. He desires it for us and for the earth. He desires it because that is what He died for – not only that we all might be resurrected, but that we might have eternal life. He desires it also because Zion must be built, by our very real hands and very real hearts, that he might have a place to come. Zion must be built before His work – the work for which He gave His life – can be completely fulfilled…yeah, even before we can receive of His fullness.
Again – Zion must be built before His work – the work for which He gave His life – can be completely fulfilled…yeah, even before we can receive of His fullness!
Zion will not be built by people who are seeking safety, be it spiritual or economic. It will be built by those who have the courage and the love to sacrifice everything. It will be built by those whose only safety is in the word of Christ Himself. It will be built by those who seek His voice, who seek His face, and prepare themselves to lay all things on the altar of sacrifice. I know many who have been preparing all their life – wonderful people. My heart knows who you are. He knows who you are. You have been called. Will you then prepare to be chosen?
My friends, the time is now. We’ve all believed this day will come, haven’t we? The scriptures assure us of this, don’t they? We take the Lord at His word…don’t we? Then why do we continue to believe we can stay in the safety of the harbor?
We can stay safe, or we can risk all. Risk all to gain all. It is a very simple formula in my mind.