Sermoncitos, a family tradition
In the world, not Of the world
The sacred book of the Nephites is mostly the writing of a man named “Mormon”, whose father was named Mormon. He had one son that we know of, Moroni. He was born 300 years after the visit of Christ in America, but was strong in the Christian tradition, bright and articulate, a great leader from his youth. When he was 10 years old the prphet Ammaron came to him. “I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe” (Mormon 1:2) He told the child Mormon where he had hid the sacred records and told him that when he was about 24 years old he should take charge of these records, and add to the record based on his observations.
At age 11 his father took him to the big city in the land southward, Zarahemla, where he was astounded to see the many buildings. That was the year that the wars started between all the clans of the Lamanites against all the clans of the Nephites. Even during the times of peace he witness terrible iniquity among the people. He does not describe the atrocities of war or the excesses of peace in detail. He does say that “...being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus” (Mormon 1:15).
Being filled with the Spirit, he had a strong desire to preach and change the people, but they had willfully rebelled against their God. “But I did remain among them, but I was forbidden to preach unto them, because of the hardness of their hearts; and because of the hardness of their hearts the land was cursed for their sake” (Mormon 1:17).
Recognized for his wisdom and strength and leadership, he was appointed leader of the Nephite armies at age 16. He held this post for 36 years until “it came to pass that I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abomination” (Mormon 3:11).
For the next 13 years he observed their follies and wars while accomplishing his great work of compiling and summarizing the 1,000 year history of his people. He was constantly aware that he was writing for us, as he knew the destruction of his people was at hand. “And now behold, this I speak unto their seed, and also to the Gentiles who have care for the house of Israel, that realize and know from whence their blessings come” (Mormon 5:10).
At age 65 he returned to duties at the command of the Nephite army and continued to write. At age 75 he wrote his final words and made his final tragic defense at the land of Cumorah, and turned the records over to his son, Moroni. After the final battle of genocide against the Nephites, he stood with two dozen wounded survivors “and my soul was rent with anguish, because of the slain of my people, and I cried...” (Mormon 6:16).
His final writings were a call to us, those who would read his words in the last days, to faith in Christ, repentance, and a knowledge that we are the covenant people who are heirs to the promises of God. Mormon 7:10: To heed his call, we like him must live in the world, but not be of the world. Amen.
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!”