Sermoncitos, a family tradition
Enduring to the End
While Christ was visiting in America, he gave many teachings and performed many miracles. “Behold I have given unto you my Gospel...” 3 Nephi 27: 13. Mormon only gives a small account of all that was said and done (3 Nephi 26:6). He only included those portions he felt were of great worth to his purpose: “that they may be brought again unto this people from the Gentiles...” (3 Nephi 26:8). The coming forth of this book is a sign that the Lord is beginning to fulfill the covenant to restore the people of Israel to the lands of their inheritance (3 Nephi 29:1). The Navajo were restored to their homelands with the Treaty of 1868 while William Walter Howard was serving in the Army in Washington. The Jews were established in the nation of Israel with the United Nations initiative of 1948, the year I was born in San Francisco.
Mormon gives the next 200 years of history in only a few verses. We learn from times of controversy and strife, as we see how people solve their problems. I would really like to know how they lived in peace and prosperity (4 Nephi 1).
They formed a church in the name of Jesus Christ. All those who came in faith and repented of their sins, were baptized in the name of Jesus; and they did alsoo receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (verse 1).
After one year of preaching they were all converted and there were no longer any ethnic distinctions and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things in common... (verse 3) they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord (verse 12). There was no contention in the land because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people (verse 15).
And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness (verse 16). They continued in peace and prosperity until some revolted from the church (verse 20) and some were lifted up in pride due to their prosperity, divide into classes, and deny the true church of Christ (verses 24-26).
The solution to achieving this peace in our lives is to do as they did, to follow Christ. “Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me and endure to the end; and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life (3 Nephi 15:9).
We are in the days of the fulfilling of all these covenants. We can achieve that same peace and prosperity by following those correct principles. Accept Christ and endure to the end.
Hold to the Rod
Lehi had a vision in which he was led through darkness and despair until he cried unto the Lord for mercy. At that point he was shown “a tree whose fruit was desirable to make one happy... and as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceeding great joy (it is the love of God which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men) (1 Ne 11:22); wherefore I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also...” (1 Nephi 8: 10-12). He saw that it was very difficult to find and stay on the path to the tree. He saw that some who partook of the fruit were ashamed after being scorned by worldly people. Nephi explains that the love of God is given to us through His Son’s coming and sacrifice for us. Trying to prevent us from obtaining the mercy of Christ are the sins, pride, and wisdom of the world.
This past week I have talked to many who reminded me of Lehi’s vision. Some quote the wisdom of world to claim that Christ came to bring war and divisiveness to the world. Some have reacted to their hardships with despair and don’t care anymore about anyone. Some have chosen to feel offended as their excuse to not stay faithful. Some simply reject the commandments in favor of worldly pleasures. Some feel that church teachings restrict their freedoms. I talked to honorable people who are satisfied with their religion (or lack thereof) and are not seeking a greater light (D&C 76:75; D&C 123:12). My main concern was for those I did not talk to: those who have received a testimony but do not gather with the saints and seek opportunities for service in the Kingdom.
I am reading the biography of Gordon B. Hinckley. After college he was surprised to be one of 525 missionaries called to service during the worldwide economic depression of the 1930’s. By that time he had suffered poverty, loss, disappointment, and poor health. In England he suffered persecution, rejection, loneliness, and discouragement. At one low point in his life he wrote to his father of his troubles and said that since he was not doing any good, he would just come home. His father wrote back: forget yourself and get to work. He took his father’s advice, and worked hard to teach the gospel to people whose priorities were survival, not spirituality. After two years of struggle, he thought he was a failure because he had baptized hardly anyone. When he returned home the church created a new public affairs office and placed him as the sole employee at a low wage. He worked for the church until called as a full time general authority. The challenges he faced invigorated him. At his funeral he was lauded as the church president whose remarkable leadership resulted in unprecedented world wide baptisms and temple building. To follow his example, we would go forward with faith.
His example is hard to follow, because of the suffering and discouragement we all face. The secret to success is in how we react to challenges. I always thought that adversity was evidence of God’s love, because the more adversity I have, the more I turn to God. When I ran those long cross country races in high school I paced myself with a hymn that I would repeat over and over in my head throughout the race: “I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord. No tender voice like thine can peace afford. I need thee, oh, I need thee; every hour I need thee! Oh, bless me now, my Savior; I come to thee!” When the voices of discouragement and the temptations of the world come round about me, I hold tighter to the iron rod that leads to the tree of life. “Hold to the rod, the iron rod; ‘tis strong, and bright, and true. The iron rod is the word of God; ‘twill safely guide us through”. “We are all enlisted till the conflict is over; happy are we, happy are we!”