We live in a world full of discontent and contention. It is so very easy to get caught up in all of that. We are taught to love our neighbor, and that contention is not right, but when everything begins to fall apart around us, and everyone else seems to be bickering, we sometimes fall right into it ourselves.
I was reading an article in the July Ensign by Elder Marcus B. Nash, Of the Seventy, entitled “Pioneers: An Anchor for Today.” Elder Nash talked about the Mormon pioneers and their incredible efforts to cross the plains and build Zion. I was struck by the following paragraph.
This sense of community and mutually shared responsibility produced a unified effort to follow God’s prophet. That is a major reason the pioneers succeeded as they did, and it is an important part of the legacy they pass to us. They whisper that we too will prosper through the Lord’s power only to the degree we act as one with a sense of community and mutual responsibility in following the Lord’s prophet (Elder Marcus B. Nash, Of the Seventy, “Pioneers: An Anchor for Today,” July 2015 Ensign).
Did you catch that? The pioneers succeeded largely because of their sense of unity and mutual responsibility in following the Lord’s prophet. Wow! That just took my breath away. What on earth have we done with that legacy?! Why haven’t we learned from those earlier faithful pioneers? Why do we often bicker, quarrel, and even take issue with what prophets and apostles teach us? Those early pioneers must be shaking their heads and wondering, “What are they doing?!”
We aren’t asked to pack a small portion of belongings, sail to a new continent, and push a handcart across the plains of the United States. To date, I’ve never been asked to break up my china to be ground in the mortar of a temple to make it glisten and shine. My hands have never sewn work clothes for men building our temples. I’ve not been asked to open my house to strangers until their cabin is completed. I haven’t been asked to do anything of the like. All that is asked of me is to live the commandments, follow the living prophet and apostles, and be unified with the Saints of Zion.
Packing a few belongings into wagons or handcarts and walking 1,300 miles (2,090 km) isn’t the way most of us will be asked to demonstrate our faith and courage. We face different challenges today—different mountains to climb, different rivers to ford, different valleys to make “blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1) (Nash, ibid, quoting M. Russell Ballard, “Pioneer Faith and Fortitude—Then and Now”, July 2013 Ensign).
When the whole world around us is pulling us in one direction, and the prophet is saying the world is wrong, it is difficult for some (including me) to hitch my pony to the prophet’s hitching post. Sometimes we’d like to ride that pony off into the sunset and be with the world. It’s not easy being a member of Christ’s Church—it’s not supposed to be easy. It is necessary, however, to secure that pony to the rail. As much trouble as we seem to have these days following the prophet in unity without contention, I can’t even imagine what our actions would have been had we lived in the early days of the restored Church—but then, the biggest enemy to the early restored Church was some of its own early members.
Those first members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints went through a refiner’s fire prior to the trek west to the Salt Lake Valley. By the time the pioneers left, they had learned to work together and live together as a unified people. They didn’t just think of themselves, but as Elder Nash pointed out in his article, they built bridges and blazed trails for the Saints who would follow later. They thought about others and tried to make their lives a bit easier.
The challenges that we face today seem daunting at times. It seems the world has completely turned upside down. We often feel as if we were living in an enclosed fish bowl or a large bottle that the world is passing around, pointing at us, and laughing. We are truly odd to the rest of the world. We really have become “a peculiar people.” That’s as it should be. It’s supposed to be that way. We are going through our own refiner’s fire prior to the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Will He find us bickering and pointing fingers at each other? Will He find us being critical of prophets and apostles? Will He hear the underlying current in some wards and stakes of Zion? Or will we learn the lessons of the pioneers and become knit together in unity to build up of the kingdom of our God? I do so hope He will find us unified and living His commandments.