In the Best of Company…
I have found prophets and other envoys of the Lord to be messengers of great optimism, spreading “glad tidings of great joy.” Why would they not be? The message of the redeeming love of the Messiah is one of joy beyond compare. What better message, what more joyful message could be shared? It was no different for Samuel, a Lamanite, to the people of Nephi to share his joy. He came in preparation for the coming of the Savior, for an angel of the Lord had come and declared it unto him, which gave him great joy, but he was not received by the Nephites with the same. “I was sent unto you to declare it unto you also, that ye might have glad tidings; but behold ye would not receive me” (Helaman 13:7).
With the wondrous optimism of glad tidings set aside, the Lord commanded Samuel to return and to provide a warning voice to those who would not receive tidings of joy.
As they would not permit him to enter in at the gate of the city he climbed up on the wall and he delivered the Lord’s message. “Behold, I, Samuel, a Lamanite, do speak the words of the Lord which He doth put into my heart; and behold He hath put it into my heart to say unto this people that the sword of justice hangeth over this people,… Yea, heavy destruction awaiteth this people” (Helaman 13:5-6).
Samuel called upon them to repent and prepare for the day of the Lord, who knew their hearts and their motivations. “Ye do not remember the Lord your God in the things with which He hath blessed you,… your hearts are not drawn out unto the Lord, but they do swell with great pride, unto boasting, and unto great swelling, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders, and all manner of iniquities” (Helaman 13:22).
Samuel continued, “ye do cast out the prophets, and do mock them, and cast stones at them, and do slay them, and do all manner of iniquity unto them, even as they did of old time. And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out. Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil” (Helaman 13:24-26).
Even with these declarations many of the people sought to destroy Samuel. They cast stones and shot arrows at him as he stood upon the wall declaring God’s word. Samuel was in good company. The wicked mocked Noah and sought to slay Lehi for the words they spoke on behalf of the Lord. They called John a wild man and beheaded him, and Nephi’s own brothers bound him and attempted to harm and kill him on several occasions just for delivering God sent messages. Stephen was stoned to death and most of the twelve were slain for their declarations of the divinity of Jesus Christ. Daniel and Alma were persecuted and threatened with death for praying to Heavenly Father. The people rebelled against Moses when their faith faltered. Alma the Younger and Amulek were forced to watch as righteous women and children were burned, because they had taught them of the Redeeming Lord. Abinadi was burned at the stake for not rescinding words of chastisement he delivered on behalf of the Lord to a wicked king. Joseph was sold into Egypt and subjected to burdensome trials by his own brothers because he delivered to them the prophecies of the Lord. Joseph Smith was persecuted for life, declared by enemies to be a false prophet, by some fair weather friends to be a fallen prophet, beaten, tortured and falsely imprisoned, and eventfully martyred with his brother because he had indeed seen and spoken with God the Eternal Father and His Son the Risen Lord, and not only could not deny it, but he declared it with a message of repentance. Yes, Samuel the Lamanite was in the best of company. Although he was not called upon to seal his witness with his blood, he, like all the rest, was willing to do so.
Of those who would reject the words of the prophets Samuel prophesied, “…if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him” (Helaman 13:27-28).
Prophets of the Lord and others who deliver God’s message have always been under the mockery and condemnation of the wicked. This is not a new thing, but it seems to have renewed energy with what is now commonly known as the “cancel culture.” The sweeping effects of this movement seem to be boundless, but specific to those who would in some way unapologetically declare truth and righteousness in the face of evil. The living need only apologize and recant their declarations to spare the flame, the annihilation of one’s reputation, ability to make a living, or cancellation of one’s trust in the community. One can give up his or her right to free speech, religion, belief and thought, and escape the repercussions of this movement.
The deceased, those who have gone before us and helped lay the very foundations of our society and culture, have no such opportunity to recant, nor do I believe would they, if given the opportunity, turn back the clock and erase all of the blessings of freedom and spirituality that we enjoy in our civilization today. Prophets, seers and revelators including the Apostle Paul, President Brigham Young, Elder J. Reuben Clark and President Ezra Taft Benson are being maligned even today with campaigns seeking to strike their names from revered institutions they helped to establish. This is historical heresy and cannot be abided.
For those of us who declare on behalf of the Lord, like Abinadi, there is also no option to recant His words. Our living prophets, our stake presidents, our bishops, mothers and fathers in Zion, and missionaries, acting and speaking under the inspired direction of our Lord and King on behalf of those for whom we have assigned stewardship, dare not in good faith and comfort refrain from delivering our God sent messages. To quote our beloved prophet Joseph Smith, “For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it,…”
Sometimes the Lord’s message is difficult to hear, but it is nevertheless the Lord’s message still. Sometimes the Lord’s message is hard to speak, but it is nevertheless the Lord’s message still. None of us who live beyond childhood and into youth and adulthood can escape the chastenings of the Lord. We are all flawed. He chooses His messengers and He chastens us because He loves us. His messages are messages of love. He calls us to repent because He wants us to return to Him. He wants us to receive “glad tidings of great joy” with a still voice of love, but He loves us enough o chasten us if that is our only opportunity. Remember, Samuel’s message of “glad tidings” was not received, but many who were chastened from the wall did repent and prepared for the day of their Lord.
It is my prayer that we will open our ears and listen always for “glad tidings,” and receive whatever chastenings need to come that we can stand with Him now and in His day. May we not only be humble hearers of the word, but may we also deliver His assigned messages with courage, even in the face of persecution, defamation, cancellation or even at the threat of our own lives, and like Samuel, be in the best of company. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.