Courage and Commitment in the Latter Days

Handcart pioneer familyLast month we celebrated Pioneer Day. The monumental courage and commitment of those early Saints has always impressed me, and I have been trying diligently to channel my inner pioneer spirit. I want to take the legacy of faith they passed down and carry it forward because we have a work to do in our time just as they did in theirs.

The world we live in is a mess. Many people want to turn off the news for good, and who can blame them? Our society is turning away from God and insisting that absolute truth does not exist. We are changing the definition of the sacred institutions of marriage and family. We see terrorism, political corruption, human trafficking, creeping socialism, threats to religious freedom, nations on the verge of war – and the list goes on. Paul warned that “in the last days, perilous times shall come” (2 Timothy 3:1). Times are now perilous, indeed! How do we keep from being overwhelmed with all the evil that we face?

One of the first answers that comes to mind is to live our lives according to the commandments so that we can qualify for the guidance of the Holy Ghost in all that we do. That is definitely necessary, but we need to take it a step further. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “You are good. But it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something. You must contribute good to the world” (BYU Devotional, 9/17/96, emphasis added).

How do we contribute good to the world? Certainly, we start in our own homes. We MUST teach our children the principles of the gospel and give them a firm foundation centered in Jesus Christ. We cannot rely on others to do the teaching for us. Sheri Dew said, “We no longer have the luxury of spending our energy on anything that does not lead us and our families to Christ. . . In the days ahead, a casual commitment to Christ will not carry us through” (October 1999 General Conference). What strong counsel!

Another way to contribute good to the world is to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:9). In the legal world, a trial witness does not sit quietly on the sidelines watching the proceedings without speaking up. On the contrary, a witness makes their position known. They face the opposition and testify of truth under oath. They take a firm stand. As witnesses of God, we need to make our position known, albeit in a kind and compassionate way. The pioneers were this kind of witness for God and had this kind of courage. They were driven from their homes, but they were committed to the gospel and gave everything they had. They walked across a continent because the Lord asked them to. Through it all, their faith stood as a witness at all times and in all things and in all places even until death.

Living in the last days gives us a marvelous opportunity to continue the legacy of faith that has been handed down to us by early members of the restored Church. Yes, the world is in turmoil. Yes, there is much to worry about to the point of being easily overwhelmed. However, changing our perspective on these troubled days can be a source of incredible strength. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave an address at BYU entitled “Terror, Triumph, and the Wedding Feast.” The perspective he puts on our dispensation turns apprehension into peace and turns fear into courage:

Elder Jeffrey R. HollandOne way or another, I think virtually all of the prophets and early apostles had their visionary moments of our time—a view that gave them courage in their own less-successful eras. Those early brethren knew an amazing amount about us. Prophets such as Moses, Nephi, and the brother of Jared saw the latter days in tremendously detailed vision. Some of what they saw wasn’t pleasing, but surely all those earlier generations took heart from knowing that there would finally be one dispensation that would not fail.

Ours, not theirs, was the day that gave them ‘heavenly and joyful anticipations’ and caused them to sing and prophesy of victory. Ours is the day, collectively speaking, toward which the prophets have been looking from the beginning of time, and those earlier brethren are over there still cheering us on! In a very real way, their chance to consider themselves fully successful depends on our faithfulness and our victory. I love the idea of going into the battle of the last days representing Alma and Abinadi and what they pled for and representing Peter and Paul and the sacrifices they made. If you can’t get excited about that kind of assignment in the drama of history, you can’t get excited!

I feel like leaping from my chair when I read this. Imagine being cheered on from beyond the veil by Moses, Nephi, and all of the prophets, ancient and modern. Picture yourself representing Alma and Abinadi as you stand for truth and righteousness in this wicked world! Realize what it means that their success depends on our faithfulness in these last days. This perspective makes it clear that it is an honor and a blessing to be chosen to be on earth at this time. God will not forsake us just as he never forsook the righteous in any other dispensation. The gospel will never again be removed from the earth. We will carry it forward until the Savior returns again. In fact, Elder Holland makes this other glorious point:

Because ours is the last and greatest of all dispensations, because all things will eventually culminate and be fulfilled in our era, there is, therefore, one particular, very specific responsibility that falls to those of us in the Church now that did not rest quite the same way on the shoulders of Church members in any earlier time. Unlike the Church in the days of Abraham or Moses, Isaiah or Ezekiel, or even in the New Testament days of James and John, we have a responsibility to prepare the Church of the Lamb of God to receive the Lamb of God—in person, in triumphant glory, in His millennial role as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. No other dispensation ever had that duty.

Savior's Second ComingThe Savior may not come in our lifetime, but he may! Think of that. We are the only dispensation in history that needs to be ready each day to welcome the Savior. We must live worthily so that “when he shall appear we shall be like him” (Moroni 7:48) and shall be counted among his followers. As we apply the faithful spirit of the pioneers to help us through our assignment in these last days, may this hymn inspire us as it inspired them:

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? ‘Tis not so; all is right.

Why should we think to earn a great reward if we now shun the fight?

Gird up your loins, fresh courage take. Our God will never us forsake;

And soon we’ll have this tale to tell – All is well! All is well!

(Come, Come Ye Saints – Hymn #30)

To prepare for the coming of the Savior is our duty in the last days. This is the assignment we received in the premortal world. We are here to build the Kingdom of God for the final time and we cannot shrink. Our Father trusts us, so take courage, find the role you have to play, and be valiant in the cause. Only then will we earn the great reward of eternal life in the Kingdom of our Father.

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