Getting Off the Fence…

“I love the symbolism of the Book of Revelation. While symbolic descriptions can be a source of confusion, I see them like parables. To me the symbolism brings greater understanding of how the Lord’s teachings relate to my life and circumstances. When by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit we relate the Scriptures to ourselves, to our own understandings, greater understanding is acquired. From this comes wisdom to know the difference between right and wrong, between truth and falsehood, and to discern the paths we should take at every fork in the road, to know on which side of the fence we should stand. Having and living with conviction is not attempting to have one foot in heaven, and one foot in hell, hoping to decide later where we would like to live.”

Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 9 December 2023

Fence sitting has never been for me. I am not talking about the difference between conservative, moderate, and liberal political philosophies, but more so the need to take a position and go with it. With age and experience, and by the tender grace of the Lord, I have learned to respect and even have empathy for the philosophies, religious beliefs, and the simple methodologies used by others in all kinds of motivations and actions. They may be different from my own values or preferences, but I can respect well meaning differences on all kinds of levels.

That with which I have a more difficult struggle and tolerance, is when there is a lack of effort in taking a position, or embracing a cause, while waiting to see which way the wind blows, or what will provide personal benefit in the near term. In some things decisions need to be made, causes need to be embraced, and respect is only deserved when our positions are anchored firmly in truth and heartfelt belief.

The Lord’s symbolic words through John the Revelator are precise and to this point. “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). This is one of my favorite and most quoted scriptures. I often change the words slightly to fit my needs, increasing my personal understanding, or to explain to others the need to get off the fence.

If you know me well then you know that I like things either hot or cold in the most literal of senses. When I swim or take a shower on a hot summer day it needs to cold, so cold that if you do not just jump in, it is torturous, or there is just no joy in it. A hot bath should be just that, hot, so hot that you have to get in slowly and then soak long. For me, lukewarm water is neither refreshing nor relaxing.

When I prepare water to drink I pack my glass to the brim with ice because I love to drink water cold, and for that matter any other beverage that is meant to be consumed cold, soda pop, juice or chocolate milk. That is probably why I love chocolate malts so much. My mother made the best chocolate malts (my memory waters, but I digress).

My hot drinks are no different. Whether it be hot chocolate, herbal tea, citron tea, or a cup of cocido (a beverage from Paraguay), it better be burn the end of my tongue hot. I like to sip things slowly whether they be hot or cold, but I cannot stand drinking anything that is lukewarm. I do not even like eating most foods lukewarm.

Elder Danny Malcolm drinking hot mate, Encarnación, Paraguay, 1983.

There is a beverage from Paraguay, an herbal tea that is sipped through a metal straw, called a bombilla, that strains the tea through a filter. When it is consumed hot, and it has to be very hot to the point that the metal straw will burn your lips or the tip of your tongue if you are not careful, it is called “Mate.” When it is consumed cold, and I mean teeth chilling cold, it is called “Tereré.” If there is a national beverage of Paraguay it is Tereré, or its winter-time companion, Mate. The drinking of Tereré and the way it should be consumed is something every Paraguayo knows well.

As a young missionary, in order to share the principle taught by John the Revelator, I would alter the words to increase the understanding of those who I was teaching. “I know thy Tereré (Mate), that it is neither cold nor hot: I would that it were cold or hot. So then because it is lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue it out of my mouth.”

Guampas and bombillas for drinking tereré and mate.

We need to get off the fence. While for some drinking a beverage that is lukewarm is just fine, the point that is made by the Lord should be understood well. We can not keep one foot in Zion and the other in the world and expect that we will be fit for God’s kingdom. The fact is, if we are lukewarm in the gospel of Jesus Christ, in the way we serve the Lord or in His church, in our callings or as ministers, or especially in our families, and service to our fellow man, we will not recognize fully the guidance of the Holy Ghost to mark our path to the tree of life where we can partake fully of the Lord’s love. We will not be able to hear His voice over the chaotic noises of worldly distraction. We will wander from the path and find ourselves aimlessly walking the halls of Satan’s great and spacious building instead of basking in the light of the Savior’s love, and at that point, we may not even know the difference.

The hour is at hand for getting off the fence. In the Lord’s words, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Let us open the door and let the Lord and His light into our lives. Let us prepare a grand meal of hot bread and cool water that we might fully enjoy our feast with the Lord. We choose our temperature. We choose when to reach out and open the door. We choose on which side of the fence to plant our feet and convictions. Let us choose well, act now and forever. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Daniel Malcolm is an entrepreneur, journalist, photographer, husband to Monica and father of twelve. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.