Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lesson: Safety for the Soul

Taught by Cheryl Wentzel

Latter-day ills and destruction
...There is one kind of latter-day destruction that has always sounded to me more personal than public, more individual than collective—a warning, perhaps more applicable inside the Church than outside it.

The Savior warned that in the last days even those of the covenant, the very elect, could be deceived by the enemy of truth. If we think of this as a form of spiritual destruction, it may cast light on another latter-day prophecy.

Think of the heart as the figurative center of our faith, the poetic location of our loyalties and our values; then consider Jesus’s declaration that in the last days “men’s hearts [shall fail] them.”

The encouraging thing, of course, is that our Father in Heaven knows all of these latter-day dangers, these troubles of the heart and soul, and has given counsel and protections regarding them.

Powerful counteroffensive
In light of that, it has always been significant to me that the Book of Mormon, one of the Lord’s powerful keystones in this counteroffensive against latter-day ills, begins with a great parable of life, an extended allegory of hope versus fear, of light versus darkness, of salvation versus destruction.

In Lehi’s dream an already difficult journey gets more difficult when a mist of darkness arises, obscuring any view of the safe but narrow path his family and others are to follow. It is imperative to note that this mist of darkness descends on all the travelers—the faithful and the determined ones (the elect, we might even say) as well as the weaker and ungrounded ones.

The principal point of the story is that the successful travelers resist all distractions, including the lure of forbidden paths and jeering taunts from the vain and proud who have taken those paths. The record says that the protected “did press their way forward, continually [and, I might add, tenaciously] holding fast” to a rod of iron that runs unfailingly along the course of the true path. However dark the night or the day, the rod marks the way of that solitary, redeeming trail.

Sisters, why is that iron rod so powerful?

“I beheld,” Nephi says later, “that the rod of iron . . . was the word of God, [leading] . . . to the tree of life; . . . a representation of the love of God.” Viewing this manifestation of God’s love, Nephi goes on to say:

“I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, . . . [who] went forth ministering unto the people. . . .
“ . . . And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; . . . and they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.”

Love. Healing. Help. Hope. The power of Christ to counter all troubles in all times—including the end of times.

That is the safe harbor God wants for us in personal or public days of despair.

That is the message with which the Book of Mormon begins, and that is the message with which it ends, calling all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” That phrase—taken from Moroni’s final lines of testimony, written 1,000 years after Lehi’s vision—is a dying man’s testimony of the only true way.

Find the fullest measure of peace
I testify that one cannot come to full faith in this latter-day work—and thereby find the fullest measure of peace and comfort in these, our times—until he or she embraces the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it testifies.

He offers us the fullest measure of peace and comfort! It's that easy.

If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject 531 pages of a heretofore unknown text teeming with literary and Semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages—especially without accounting for their powerful witness of Jesus Christ and the profound spiritual impact that witness has had on what is now tens of millions of readers—if that is the case, then such a person, elect or otherwise, has been deceived; and if he or she leaves this Church, it must be done by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit. In that sense the book is what Christ Himself was said to be: “a stone of stumbling, . . . a rock of offence,” a barrier in the path of one who wishes not to believe in this work.

Most straightforward witness testimony of this record and the peace it brings to the human heart is as binding and unequivocal as was [Lehi’s, Jared’s, King Benjamin’s, Alma’s and Amulek’s].

I ask that my testimony of the Book of Mormon and all that it implies, given today under my own oath and office, be recorded by men on earth and angels in heaven. ... I want it absolutely clear when I stand before the judgment bar of God that I declared to the world, in the most straightforward language I could summon, that the Book of Mormon is true, that it came forth the way Joseph said it came forth and was given to bring happiness and hope to the faithful in the travail of the latter days.

...God always provides safety for the soul, and with the Book of Mormon, He has again done that in our time.

How has the Book of Mormon affected your life? Have you found safety? What is your testimony?

Remember this declaration by Jesus Himself:

“Whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived”—and in the last days neither your heart nor your faith will fail you. Of this I earnestly testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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