We should show love and kindness and sympathy and welcome all to our friendship.
At the same time, we need to be careful that we do not “cast out” and “mock” the words of our prophets and “destroy” or discredit them by using social media as a forum to breed anger and criticism of the prophets and our church.
As angry as some of you have been about one part of the new policy, do not forget about the definition of apostasy that was laid out in the handbook as well:
Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.
How can we share the gospel, be a missionary, and further the work of the Lord when we discredit and shame our own prophet?
When Alma was trying to teach the Zoramites, Corianton undermined his efforts by his bad example. Alma chastised him:
Behold, O my son, how great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites; for when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words.
We bear responsibility for the example we set.
President Harold B. Lee (Conference Report, Oct. 1970, p. 152–153) said:
There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory” (D&C 21:6).
I find the situation in Helaman 13:24-27 sadly applicable to our behavior:
Yea, wo unto this people, because of this time which has arrived, that 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.
Typically we read verses like that and think “those guys.” But it’s us. We are doing this. Within the church.
Some deeds are sins. “The Church,” the prophet, we continue to teach that. In doing so we should still show love and patience. But not to the point that it starts to sound like this:
But behold, 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.”
Once in the Book of Mormon there was so much internal conflict among the Nephites they found themselves unprepared to withstand an attack from the Lamanites (Alma 51:9).
But behold, this was a critical time for such contentions to be among the people of Nephi; for behold, Amalickiah had again stirred up the hearts of the people of the Lamanites against the people of the Nephites, and he was gathering together soldiers from all parts of his land, and arming them, and preparing for war with all diligence; for he had sworn to drink the blood of Moroni.
I’ll save a lot of time here and just say it didn’t go well. Moroni even said, “…this had been hitherto a cause of all their destruction” (Alma 51:16). So he got permission to have dissenters put to death. (Gasp, and we freak out if after a very long time someone is excommunicated). Amalickiah came in and took possession of a lot of their strongly fortified cities. Strongly fortified Nephite cities. Our team, so to speak.
Are we setting ourselves up for trouble by this bickering amongst ourselves? Do we believe in the doctrine of Christ? Do we believe Joseph Smith was a prophet? Do we believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God? Well, do you? Whose team are you on? Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
I recognize some people are affected by some aspects of the doctrine or church policy more than others. But we can expect that all of us will find difficulty at some point. All of us will encounter something hard for us to obey. If not this, something else later.
There have been things in the past that have been harder for me. Because I chose to follow then, it makes it easier for me to obey and trust now, because I can see that I don’t have all the answers. God really does know more. And it is well within his privilege to say what is right and what is wrong. It is my choice to follow or not.
What is important is that we keep our feet firmly planted on the foundation of Jesus Christ (see Helaman 5:12). If we only obey our prophet insofar as we already happen to agree with him, then he is useless to us. If think we already have all the answers, what do we need a prophet for? We have to expect that sometimes we don’t understand everything.
Certainly, the Lord wants us to have understanding, and we learn line upon line, but sometimes, we are required to act in faith, trusting in the Lord. Just because we don’t understand, don’t like it, or it affects us more deeply, does not mean it is wrong and should be fixed.
This test of life wouldn’t mean much if all the questions were softballs. In our effort to show love and compassion, let us not forget that our first allegiance should always be to Jesus Christ and his chosen prophets (Joshua 24:15).
Choose you this day whom ye will serve.
It is now more important than ever for you to decide. This won’t be the last time something hard comes along.