Friday, March 13, 2009

The Lord's Pattern For Overcoming Persecution- Section 24

Soon after the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints took place on April 6, 1830, the prophet Joseph Smith was hit with a deluge of persecution from the people of the surrounding areas by way of libelous law suits and unlawful arrests. These were times of great trial and a true test of the faith of the early saints of the Church.

The Lord knew that the Mormon's would be no strangers to persecution so, in His loving fashion, provided a pattern in Section 24 of the Doctrine and Covenants for the saints to follow, to help them endure and even avoid the persecution that would come their way. The pattern was that of pruning.

D&C 24: 19 For thou art called to prune my vineyard with a mighty pruning, yea, even for the last time; yea, and also all those whom thou hast ordained, and they shall do even according to this pattern. Amen.

The act of pruning a tree or a vineyard is the process of removing the “dead wood” or the “sucker saplings” so that the plant does not become drained of its strength and nourishment. By pruning away the unnecessary burden of unproductive branches the whole energy of the plant can concentrate on those branches that will bare fruit.

The Pattern

1) In verse 3 the Lord instructed Joseph to “magnify thine office.” These were specific instruction given to Joseph, but can also be profitable for us today. We all have a calling. We have been called as Children of our Heavenly Father to further His work by proclaiming His gospel, perfecting His saints, and redeeming our dead. When we magnify that office we are entitled to the added blessing of strength that is promised because of obedience and commitment to the Lord. This magnification of our sacred calling is proof to the Lord that we are willing to “make Him our God, and we will be His people” and willing to “walk with Him.” Knowing who we are and what we are called to do is the best protection against persecution that can be given.

2) In verse 5 He instructs us to “call upon God in my name”, or to pray. By submitting ourselves to constant prayer we are showing that we are willing to be directed in the path the Lord would have us take.

3) Also in verse 5, the Lord tells Joseph to “continue writing the things which shall be given thee by the Comforter.” At this time Joseph was in the process of working on the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. If we think about the process that took place to allow this to happen, it is actually the ultimate scripture study experience. Joseph read the scriptures, pondered their meaning, and was taught by the spirit the truth of the words. In this manner we are taught the perfect pattern for scripture study. When we actually study with this same amount of intensity the spirit will make the scriptures live in our hearts.

4) Again, in verse 5 Joseph is instructed to “expound all scriptures unto the church.” He was promised that “it would be given him in the very moment what he should speak and write.” This is another wonderful example of “teaching by the spirit”. The best way to fully understand a principle is to teach it. This instruction, to teach, was a process that allowed Joseph to solidify the concepts he had learned through his study. The best way to make sure you understand a principle is to try to teach it to someone else.

5) In verse 7 Joseph is instructed to serve. Service is the stepping stone for love. We serve those we love, but miraculously we come to love those we serve.

6) Verse 8 calls for patience. Patience allows for differences in opinion and charity towards those who have not received as much light and knowledge as another may have. Imagine the understanding that the Prophet Joseph Smith was given, and the amount of patience he must have needed to “wait” for others to simply catch up to him. Many times persecution exists simply from ignorance or misunderstanding. Patience is a quality that is essential to overcome the desire to “strike back” or retaliate for wrongs that may be done, or feelings that may be trampled on unintentionally or on purpose.

7) The next instruction given is directed to Oliver. It is to “open his mouth in bearing the name of Jesus Christ before the world”, in other words, bear his testimony. The promise for bearing his testimony was the blessing of “strength such as is not known among men.” This is the strength that is needed to overcome any amount of persecution. Every time a testimony is borne the person becomes more strengthened in his resolve and conviction of truth.

8) In verses 13 and 14 instructions are given regarding the use of priesthood authority. The Lord admonishes us to exercise the power of the priesthood righteously. The priesthood is never to be used to “prove” by way of miracles or in exhibitions of power.

9) Finally, they were admonished to take no “purse or scrip” making sure they relied solely on the Lord for their support. When persecution is raging there are times when we can do nothing else but rely on the Lord.

If we ponder this pattern, we can see that through obedience and commitment, prayer combined with scripture study, teaching and serving others in patience, the blessing that naturally follows is the development of a testimony.

The strengthening of that testimony comes in bearing it. Bearing your testimony among those who would persecute you requires a righteous use of priesthood power relying on the Lord for strength, or in other words a complete exercise of faith.

Thus the pattern is set for protection from any type of persecution that we may face. Our membership in the LDS Church today may not require that we face physical abuse like that of being “tarred and feathered”, but it will certainly be tried by fire none the less. As members we face many different levels of persecution, from public verbal abuse by way of inflammatory media attention, to abuse that may be suffered in the privacy of our own homes. We may be called upon in many different avenues to teach correct principles and bear pure testimony to those who do not hold sacred that which we hold sacred. To practice this pattern that the Lord has given us, to withstand the persecution that will come our way, is a requirement now as well as it was in Joseph Smiths time. That protection from persecution can only be found in the development and nurturing of a strong testimony of Jesus Christ.

How have you strengthened your testimony lately?