Before the birth of Christ, the Greek influence of Alexander the Great’s Empire permeated every part of the Hebrew society. Increasingly, there was a struggle between those who wanted to live by the word of God and those who wanted to incorporate the Greek philosophies into their lives. Even some of the priesthood leaders of Israel were swayed into mixing the philosophies of the Hellenistic (Greek) influence with the law and priesthood of God. Not all Israelites were so eager to adopt this new blend of philosophy. Among these faithful were various groups of Hebrews who wanted to be found living God’s law when the Messiah came. These faithful groups fled to the wilderness, just as the ancient Israelites fled Egypt, in search of their own promised land.
In more recent history, we see this same pattern repeated by many of the reformers and separatists who left the religion of their country to seek after a more perfect way. America was founded by the families who wanted to have the religious freedom needed to live a more perfect way and our Mormon pioneers left their various homelands to build Zion in the desert.
If you haven’t noticed, the philosophies of men have not ceased to infiltrate every aspect of our modern lives. So, how do we keep our families from falling victim to these lies? Elder Jeffery R. Holland has the answer, “In these last days, in this our dispensation, we would become mature enough to stop running. We would become mature enough to plant our feet and our families and our foundations in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people permanently. Zion would be everywhere—wherever the Church is. And with that change—one of the mighty changes of the last days—we no longer think of Zion as where we are going to live; we think of it as how we are going to live.”
During the April 2017 General Conference, our beloved President Thomas S Monson reminded us of the “critical need we have as members of this Church to study, ponder, and apply its [The Book of Mormon’s] teachings in our lives. The importance of having a firm and sure testimony of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated.”
His plea for all of us to hold to the rod, the word of God, is reminiscent of the fatherly plea that Lehi gave to his sons after partaking the fruit of the tree of life: “And it came to pass that I beckoned unto them; and I also did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit. And it came to pass that they did come unto me and partake of the fruit also.” (1 Nephi 8:15-16)
President Monson went on to implore all who would listen to grasp onto the Rod of Iron, “We live in a time of great trouble and wickedness. What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today? I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety. If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so. If you will read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. If it is true—and I solemnly testify that it is—then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.”
Lehi’s prophetic vision of the Rod of Iron gives us a powerful visual on how tightly we need to hold to the Word of God to rescue us from the dark mist that accompanies the philosophies of men. President Monson warns:
“A testimony needs to be kept vital and alive through continued obedience to the commandments of God and through daily prayer and scripture study.”
There are as many philosophies of men as there are men of this earth. The Book of Mormon was written for our day to expose these philosophies and turn the children of God to their Savior, Jesus Christ. President Ezra Taft Benson warned, “Now, we have not been using the Book of Mormon as we should. Our homes are not as strong unless we are using it to bring our children to Christ. Our families may be corrupted by worldly trends and teachings unless we know how to use the book to expose and combat the falsehoods in socialism, organic evolution, rationalism, humanism, etc.”
Every family struggles to weed out the philosophies of men that would enslave our children. Gratefully, we can follow the direction of our prophets as we teach our children and all those around us to hold fast to the Word of God with President Monson’s prophetic promise: “As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.”
Those who desire to follow Christ may have to stay and build Zion where we are, but we don’t have to live a life that is influenced by the philosophies of men. We are blessed to have the fullness of the gospel, Christ’s restored church, and the Holy Priesthood. Aren’t we grateful to have a living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson? His guidance has provided families all over the earth with the peace and joy that Christ desires us to have.