Sustaining and Defending the Faith

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Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet

Since the organization of the Church in 1830, literally millions of people have left the various churches of Christendom to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In so doing they have shared a common feeling of joy and excitement about what they have found in the restored gospel. By the tens and hundreds of thousands, they and their children have served as missionaries. They have gone first to family and then to friends to share what they have found. In the countless times that this drama has been enacted, we know of no instances in which these converts have been impelled to vilify and attack the churches they left. We know of no books written for that purpose, no movies made to that end, and in the thousands of meetings we have attended we have never heard a single sermon in which that was done. In contrast, many members of the Church have had experiences with those who have chosen to leave Mormonism but who cannot leave it alone. The preoccupation of their lives becomes barbs, attacks, misrepresentations, and the like. We simply suggest that we discern the spirit of their actions and words. What is the source of bitterness, ugliness, meanness? Is this of God or of some other source, and if of another, what?

As teachers at the Church university, the authors have had in their classes scores of young people who have joined the Church despite considerable opposition on the part of friends and family. Stories of parental bitterness, of being disinherited or disowned are not uncommon. And again we would ask the question, What is the source of such feelings?

When young men or young women say to their parents, "We have decided to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," this means they will commit themselves to being morally clean, to keeping the Sabbath holy, to being honest and upright in their dealings with their fellowmen, to refraining from the use of drugs (except for medical purposes), alcohol, and tobacco. It means they will give of their own time to the service of others and that when they marry they will do so with a commitment that is not only for time but for eternity and they will seek to raise a good family. It means they will not only seek to honor their parents, but to honor and obey the laws of the land. When children choose this and their parents become bitter and angry, again we would suggest we ought to "discern the spirits" and ask from whence comes the opposition.

A mission president overseas was invited by a group of the nation's leading ministers to speak to them on the subject "What right do Mormons have in our country?" He accepted their invitation and introduced his remarks by suggesting that, as he understood it, everything that was virtuous, lovely, or of good report came from one source, that being God, while those things that represented bitterness, ugliness, rancor, and so forth came from an opposite source, that being the devil. He asked them if that was according to their understanding. All agreed. He then said, "Now if any of you have any of those feelings of meanness in your heart toward me or my church, where did you get them?" His audience sat appropriately silent, for in the weeks previous each had done and said much about the missionaries and the Church that evidenced the spirit which they were serving.

Conclusion:

One does not approach God without the adversary's opposition. The opposition of darkness and evil is a sure sign that the path being followed is offensive to the prince of darkness and thus pleasing to the God of heaven. We repeat the great lesson learned from the Prophet: "The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifested by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes." To this we add the admonition of Elisha to his servant, who feared because of the greatness of the army that surrounded Israel. "Fear not," he said, "for they that be with us are more than they that be with them." Then he implored the Lord to open his servant's eyes so that he might see the legions of heaven's army standing in readiness. (See 2 Kings 6:15-18).

As Moroni said of the Church, "it will increase the more opposed," so it can appropriately be said of its members. Even in opposition there is that which strengthens and edifies. We have two witnesses of the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Church he restored: first, that born of the Holy Ghost quietly conveyed through the spirit of peace; and second, that born of the spirit of the adversary, loud in railing accusation.

From the book: Sustaining and Defending the Faith, by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet (both teach at BYU and at Education Weeks)