A Time to Stand Up, Speak Out, and Defend…
“There are times when it is incumbent that all men must stand up, speak out and defend. It is our familial responsibility.’”Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 5 August 2023
I believe that although there are many things in life that intimidate and cause trepidation, we can be strengthened and emboldened to overcome fear when we are willing to be on the Lord’s errand through the trials of daily life. On the Lord’s errand, we can “fear not,” knowing He is with us, and even find forgiveness in past mistakes. When we stand up, speak out and defend for righteousness’ sake, the Lord is with us, and we may have “always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16).
Many years ago, when all of my children were young and home and safe with a babysitter on a Friday night, Monica and I were out enjoying our weekly date-night. We had gone to dinner, and afterwards we were sitting in a dark movie theater watching a film, the name of which I no longer recall. What I do recall of that night was an encounter I experienced during a much-needed visit to the restroom in the middle of the film.
The theater was a large multiplex in north Fresno. The large elongated restrooms had entrances on both ends, with multiple closing-door stalls in the center. I entered on the side nearest the theater where we were viewing the film, passed by the sink and wash area, intending to use the nearest receptacle so I could get back to the movie. All of a sudden, I heard a raised and abusive voice. The sound was harsh, carrying the most vulgar and coarse language. I also heard the whimpers of a small child. There was fear in his little voice, begging to be left alone.
I immediately stepped away from the business I had gone there to take care of, and approached the stall area of the restroom from whence I could hear the voices. As I neared the center of several stall doors, I could see that one was open, a large man squatting in the doorway, his hands on a little boy maybe three years old. The man’s mouth was filled with expletives yelling at the child to go to the bathroom, or he would face consequences, squeezing him by the shoulder with one hand, and raising the other hand to him. The little boy cried out, “I’m sorry, I don’t have to go anymore.” The man’s response ever the more harsh, obviously upset that he was missing his movie.
The large man’s arms were covered with tattoos, which was less common in the 90s than today. His large frame and muscular build were certainly intimidating to this frightened little child, as I must admit, caught my attention as well. There were several other men in the bathroom, none so anxious as was I to get so close, but standing by still in silence, I think not knowing what to do, but knowing something needed to be done.
All of this was happening in a matter of seconds in time, but it felt as if time was standing still.
My heart pounding in my chest, tightness rising up into my throat, the brute continuing, apparently unaware that I was standing behind him, and the other men in the restroom I thought perhaps reliant upon me to do something. I knew I must speak up, even at risk, to protect a child. Would the other men in the room back me up if this became violent? I did not know, but in a glance at the man nearest me a few feet away, I hoped I knew my answer, and raised my voice with commanding power. “Take your hands off that little boy and shut your filthy mouth!”
Tightening his grip on the boy, the man turned his head slightly enough to see me, and growled back with expletives, “Mind your own business!”
I replied, “This is my business, and you’re going to knock it off, or we’re gonna have a problem!”
“This is my business, and you’re going to knock it off, or we’re gonna have a problem!”Daniel Joseph Malcolm
Raising his voice, “What are you going to do about it?”, he aggressively turned more toward me, and released the boy behind him.
I doubled down and posted my stance in a position ready for a fight, “I will do whatever it takes to stop what you’re doing!”
Prepared for the consequences, as I could see this guy, larger than me, gearing up to move violently toward me, I was much reinforced and relieved to hear the voice of the man standing a few feet to my right, “That goes for me too!” And then another voice, “Yah!” and another. I called out to one nearest the exit to go get security, and watched the demeanor of the perpetrator slump and recoil from his aggressive stance.
Security came, and then the police, reports were taken, the child for the moment in protective hands, I do not know what came of that event, but I did know that there is a time in which we have to stand up and speak out or defend, and I knew that in that hour I did right.
To Monica, sitting in the theater a long time alone, I had a lot of explaining. I know that she was very grateful to the men who stood with when it was incumbent upon me to stand up, speak out and defend. We too were grateful to the Lord, for I felt him with me.
There are times when one needs to stand up, speak out and defend, and it can be scary. It is not easy the feeling of putting yourself at risk, even to help another, because it is our natural inclination to protect ourselves. Nevertheless, as sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters all of us, the need and drive to protect and help others is also in us. Some have risked their very lives just to teach of Christ that all God’s children may know we are His. “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being,… for we are also His offspring” (Acts 17:28). Therefore, what more worthy cause can we have than to preach salvation in Him, share His saving words?
The thought of opening our mouths and speaking the words of Christ can be intimidating and frightening. While we are called upon to fear not, when our lack of self-confidence and faith is combined with the buffetings of the adversary it is a challenge not to be afraid. Yet, we can overcome fear with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He will be with us always and most especially in our trials.
Even in His invitation for us to teach the gospel we were given words of comfort that He would not depart from us. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Do we have faith in Christ sufficient that we believe Him when He says He will be with us always? We hear it when in prayer partake of sacrament, “…that they may always have His Spirit to be with them” (D&C 20:77). Do we embrace in the renewal of our covenants those words and promises that the Savior and His Spirit will be with us always? We should, because those words are eternal truth.
What of those of us who have sinned grievously? Can we depend on this promise as well? The Apostle Paul is an example of a man who indeed had sinned grievously against the Lord, yet Paul’s repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atonement overcame any doubt Paul may have had. “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16).
How did Paul, who had participated in the persecution of the Saints, arrive at this point where he projected of himself to be void of offense toward God?
Paul gave his all to the Lord. He raised his voice as a servant of the Most High to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to every corner of the earth that his physicality allowed him to visit. Where he could not go he sent proclaiming letters, the epistles, that those far distant in space, and later in time, would know the gospel of Jesus.
Paul faced all kinds of trial and discomfort, both those things that come upon us simply in the acts of living a daily life, and those things inflicted upon him, which were grievous, because he had the faith to open his mouth and speak the word of the Lord.
One could say that his faith brought him pain and sorrow. Paul would never say that, only that his faith and those things that he had to endure brought him closer to Christ, because he chose to boldly bear witness of the Savior despite the earthly consequences. Although Paul suffered much, the Lord suffered with him and bore him up, as He promises to do for us.
“When we are on the Lord’s errand we are entitled to the Lord’s help.”
President Thomas S. Monson
President Thomas S. Monson taught, “When we are on the Lord’s errand we are entitled to the Lord’s help.” I felt on the Lord’s errand in that movie theater restroom long ago. I know He was with me. I have also felt Him with me on His errand many times before and since, preaching His gospel and sharing His word. Like Paul, we can have faith and the promise that as we serve the Lord and His children we can count on the Lord’s help, and we too can receive forgiveness, that it may be said of us to have “always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.